Joshu, when wandering on pilgrimage, came for an interview with Rinzai. He arrived just as the master was washing his feet and asked him, “What is the meaning of the patriarch’s coming from the West?” Rinzai replied, “Opportunely, I am just washing my feet.” Joshu came closer and pretended to listen to Rinzai’s washing his feet. Rinzai said, “I think I should throw out the second gourd of dirty water.” On that, Joshu withdrew.
Joshu’s question ‘What is the meaning of the patriarch’s coming from the West?’ means ‘What is the true-Self?’ Rinzai’s answer to Joshu’s question ‘Opportunely, I am just washing my feet’ means, ‘The act of washing my feet and the speech that I am making to answer your question is no other than the true-Self. Why don’t you discern this although it is revealing itself clearly before your eyes?’ Joshu responded by coming closer and pretending to listen to Rinzai’s washing his feet, which means, ‘I know what you mean. My act of coming closer and pretending to listen to your washing your feet is not different from what you mean.’ Rinzai’s ‘I think I should throw out the second gourd of dirty water’ means, ‘I’ve already answered your question by saying, ‘Opportunely, I am just washing my feet’. Strictly speaking, there cannot be any words in the state of the true-Self. The words I made to answer your question are no better than a gourd of dirty water if you follow words. Then, I think I should reveal the true-Self one more time by commenting like this. If you don’t grasp this, it will be the second gourd of dirty water.’
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway