What does it mean not to shine? It’s kind of interesting how we get caught up in affirmation and negation. Of course, one of the whole points of our practice and training is to be able to be free of affirmation and negation. There are many koans that deal with exactly that. They address our preoccupation with others’ approval and the constant disapproval of ourselves.

Master Zhaozhou went to a hermit and asked, “Are you in? Are you in?” The hermit held up a fist. Zhaozhou said, “The water is too shallow to anchor a vessel here.” And he walked away. From one perspective, he was clearly disapproving. Then he went to another hermit and called out, “Are you in? Are you in?” This hermit also held up a fist in exactly the same way. Zhaozhou said, “You are free either to give or to take away, either to kill or to give life.” And he bowed to him, clearly approving. In the commentary it says, “Both held up their fist. Why did he approve the one and disapprove the other? If you say that one hermit is superior to the other, you have not yet got the Zen eye. If you say there is no difference between the two, you have not yet got the Zen eye.”

So how do you deal with this conundrum? How do you leap free of duality? To leap free of duality is to leap free of affirmation and negation. Here it is again in another encounter: “The monks gathered in the great hall to listen to Fayan give a talk before the mid-day meal. Before the talk started, Fayan pointed to the bamboo blinds. Two monks jumped up. One started closing the blinds on one side, and the other started closing the blinds on the other side. Fayan said, ‘One has it, and one has not.’” The commentary says, “Tell me, which one has it and which was has not?”—yet, “you’re strictly warned against arguing about ‘has and has not.’” How do you leap free of “has and has not”?

Peace and Love, Jim

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