PZI Teacher Archives

Fall Sesshin 2021: Ikkyu’s Well & The Miscellaneous Koans


John Tarrant talks about Ikkyu’s “no shadow or form” in his evening dharma talk in Day 2 of Fall Sesshin. Amanda Boughton sings the 4 Boundless vows. As recorded Wednesday, October 20, 2021.



In a well that was never dug
water ripples from a spring that doesn’t flow.
Someone with no shadow or form
is drawing the water.

—Pacific Zen Miscellaneous Koans, Case 22 (from a poem by Ikkyu)

The poet Ikkyu liked to meditate in a boat at night. One night he was enlightened by a crow with no mouth. 

The miscellaneous koans open a path through the heart of the world. The world comes to meet us, and we meet each other. When we know that deeply, it changes everything. There’s a different you that’s seeing things.

Poetry is just a description of reality.

The Dao flows like water and always finds a way. We’re all connected to the water—that which sustains us is the water of the Dao.

“No shadow or form” is the quality of equality, like “one strip of white silk.” This is the equality of presence, or vastness. The real terrain is the vastness—the terrain we are all moving through.

“Walking, he forgot who he was…” A new person moving into the unknown.

Keep your koan 24/7. Mind weeds are the universe endlessly appearing and are each a gate. “I’m really messed up”—the gold is in there too. Become the koan.

To give roots and leaves and nourishment to the dharma, it has to be in our own lives, here. Not thinking, “It can’t be here;” that is the definition of suffering.

Let’s rest in the peace. Let it carry us.

Also: John reads the Pacific Zen Heart Sutra and chants the Japanese syllables.


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