Jon Joseph gives the morning dharma talk about his dreams of the ancestors. A relationship continues beyond death. How is this so? It does not need to be explained, it only asks to be lived. As recorded in Fall Sesshin on Thursday morning, October 21, 2021.
KOAN: Hongzhi’s Dream of the World
A monk asked Hongzhi, “What about the ones who’ve gone?”
Hongzhi said, “White clouds rise to the top of the valleys, blue peaks lean into the empty sky.”
The monk asked, “What about the ones who return?”
Hongzhi said, “Heads covered in white hair, they leave the cliffs and valleys. In the dead of night they descend through the clouds to the market stalls.”
“What about the ones who neither come nor go?”
“The stone woman calls them back from their dream of the world.”
—Pacific Zen Miscellaneous Koans, Case 34
Honghzi is an ancestor in the Soto Lineage who collected 100 koans to create the Book of Serenity.
Who is the stone woman in this koan? It’s the Dao, and also Jon’s mother as she lay dying.
Jon talks about his early Zen life in Japan with his teacher Koun Yamada, PZI’s dharma grandfather. There was a time when he felt “destitute, alone and poor,” like Qingshui, seeking but not finding. He tells the story of Yamada Roshi’s funeral, and the dream-relationship that has developed since his death, bringing a sense of closure and joy.
The universe is at play, and we can dive into our dreams and the dream of the world for our awakening. It doesn’t have to be explained, it only asks to be lived.
Jon shares a dream about another koan, “Fishing with a straight hook for fish that turn away from life.” How is that true?
In the Dao, the answer is not a conclusion—it is the living moment beyond words. We realize it in the body and in the heart.