PZI Teacher Archives
A woman called Yu worked in town making doughnuts. She used go up to visit the local Zen master and asked him lots of questions. He gave her the koan, “The true person has no rank.”
One day a beggar outside her shop was singing “If you haven’t heard the song, how can you find your way to the lake?” When she heard this, her heart and mind opened. She laughed she woke up, she understood.
Then she threw her doughnut pan onto the ground.
Her husband asked, “Have you gone crazy?”
She just answered, “This isn’t in your territory,” and ran up the hill to see her teacher, who, even from a distance, could tell that something had happened.
He asked, “Who is this true person of no rank?”
She immediately said, “There’s a woman of no rank with six arms and three heads, working furiously, smashing Flower Mountain in two with one blow. Her strength is like the ever-flowing water, which doesn’t care about the coming of spring.”
—PZI Miscellaneous Koans, Case 75
To meet a Tea Lady was always a somewhat risky proposition. Usually, in koan-ville, an unsuspecting traveler hurrying on their way somewhere else—consumed with their own knowledge and problems— would encounter a tiny wayside establishment with a deeply mysterious proprietor on hand.
In even the simplest life, pain and disappointment accumulate—and at some moment everyone longs to walk through a gate and leave the past behind, perhaps for an earlier time when the colors were bright and the heart carried no weight. The quest for a fresh start is so fundamental that it defines the shape of the stories we tell each other. Article by John Tarrant published in Lion’s Roar magazine on July 1, 2007.
John opens the evening with the koan “The True Person of No Rank.” It goes something like this: “There is a true person of no rank who is always coming and going from the portals of your face.” Who is that person of no rank? Linji was a great teacher and the ancestor of most of the koan lines of Zen and this is a koan of his. It has been used since ancient times as a meditation both for beginners and advanced students. Probably the best way to work with it is to play with it. Don’t rank how you are doing. Just let it keep you company, like an animal would. You forget about it, but every time you look, there it is! And after a while it doesn’t go away. October 17, 2013.