Rinzai had been invited to an army camp for a vegetarian banquet. At the gate post he happened to meet two of the officers. Pointing to the old post, the master asked, “Is this worldly or sacred?” The officers were speechless. Rinzai struck the old post and uttered, “Whatever you can say, it is but a block of wood,” and then went within.
When Rinzai, pointing to the old post, asked the officers, “Is this worldly or sacred?” he meant, “Is this post form or Emptiness in your view?” Rinzai answered his question in two ways. The first was by striking the post, by which he meant, “My act of striking this post and the sound from striking it are the functions of this post and the essence of its being.” The second way was by commenting, “Whatever you can say, it is but a block of wood”, by which he meant, “The essence of this post is neither worldly nor sacred since is nameless. My act of speaking like this is no other than the function of the post because everything is Oneness.” In other words, the purpose of his saying, “Whatever you can say, it is but a block wood” was not to transmit literal meaning but to use it as an expedient for revealing the true-Self that is the essence of the post.
If you apply this question to the things you see and hear in your everyday life, it can be good practice. When drinking tea or coffee, for instance, you can ask yourself, “Is this a mug or Emptiness? How can I see it as empty?”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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