It’s past midnight
The moon has not yet risen.
In the deep dark we see a face from long ago
But you don’t recognize her.
Don’t think that’s strange.
You find yourself to be an old woman
You’re sleeping late.
When you wake up you come upon an ancient mirror
And you see your own face clearly.
Try not to lose sight of it again and go chasing shadows.
You’re in the middle of nothing
There is a road that has no dust
Just don’t mention the names of sages and emperors
Then you’ll be more eloquent than they were in ancient times.
Two swords are crossed.
There’s no way to retreat.
You’re a lotus in the fire
You can’t help it
You’re determined to go higher.
Not deciding it is or it isn’t
Do you have the courage to be at peace with it?
Everyone wants to leave the endless changes
But when we finish bending and fitting our lives
We come and sit by the fire.
—from the Record of Dongshan, The Five Ranks (Chapter 114)
“It’s passed midnight, the moon has not risen, in the thick, deep dark, you meet a face from long ago: but you don’t recognize them. No need to be surprised by this.”
John Discusses koan tradition, the “five steps” of enlightenment, and communication between student and teacher.