PZI Teacher Archives

Unexpected Gifts, Unexpected Help Along the Way


What is the gift of the universe? We receive unexpected help when we are “living down a level,” living things before we construct them. Not constantly consulting your “me,” you open to the invitations and gifts that appear; trusting in the Dao.


Koan: “One strip of white silk” is an ancient saying. It appears in various places, the most well known being Case 96 of the Book of Serenity:

Jiufeng Does Not Acknowledge, Case 96

Jiufeng lived at Shishuang’s monastery as his attendant. After Shishuang’s death, the gathering wanted the head student to succeed him as abbot. Jiufeng did not acknowledge him. He said, “Wait, let me examine him. If he understands what our late teacher meant, I will attend him as I did our late teacher.”

So he asked the head student, “Our late teacher said, ‘You should extinguish all delusive thoughts. You should let consciousness expire. You should let your one awareness continue 10,000 years. You should let your awareness become like winter ashes and a withered tree. You should let your consciousness become like one strip of white silk.’ Tell me, what was he trying to make clear by this?”

The head student said, “He intended to clarify the matter of absolute emptiness.”

Jiufeng said, “Then you do not yet understand our late teacher’s meaning.”

“You don’t acknowledge me? Pass me the incense.” He lit the incense and said, “If I don’t understand our late teacher’s meaning, I won’t be able to die while this incense is still burning.” No sooner had he said this than he sat down in meditation and died.

Jiufeng then caressed his shoulder and said, “Though you can die sitting or standing, you still have not dreamed of our late teacher’s meaning.”


In meditation we feel what is calling to us. No need to reach for it—it’s here and comes out of your own heart, and covers heaven and earth.

Unexpected gift—what is it? Manjusri went looking for something that was not medicine.

We receive unexpected help when we are “living down a level,” where we live things before we construct them. You are not constantly consulting your “me.”

To study the self is to forget the self. Remembering, forgetting, remembering, forgetting—all the while going deeper down. You trust the Dao, and are open to the invitations and gifts that appear; trust that it is for you.

The sky is having a sky dream, finches like thoughts blowing in the air. Meeting animals in the realm of dreams, we enter the “one strip of white silk” world. A nut hatch allows a human rescue. Neither the human nor the nut hatch were themselves in that encounter

A story from Yamakawa Sogen about a crow coming for treatment for an injury. Kay Ryan’s poem: Felix Crow.

Comments from Allison Atwill on meeting spinner dolphins while on a dive, and Tess Beasley on knowing how to navigate while not being a “me.”

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