Gateless Gate 11: Land Interrogates Shrine Master

[Explanation: For over 20 years my spiritual practice has been Zen meditation. I am currently a member of Boundless Way Temple, Worcester, MA. I study koans under the instruction of David Rynick, Roshi. “Koan” comes from the ancient Chinese practice of law and simply means “case,” as in the record of a legal proceeding that points to the truth of the matter at hand. Koans are statements of proceedings usually in a monastery context, that point to truth. Another one of David’s students and I have taken up the practice of writing verses in response to some of the koans we study. My dharma name is “Setsusho.” Below is the koan. The koan translation from the original Chinese is by poet David Hinton. Rather than transliterate the character names, Hinton uses a literal translation of the Chinese characters: “Visitation-Land” a.k.a. Zhaozhou/Joshu. Confusing, but perhaps opening up more nuance of meaning. Following the koan is “Setsusho’s” response!]

Case

Master Visitation-Land stopped at a shrine-master’s hut and called out: “Anyone there? Presence? Any Presence there?”

The shrine-master simply held up his fist.

“You can’t anchor a boat in water this shallow,” said Land. Then he left.

Later he returned to the shrine-master’s hut and again called out: “Anyone there? Presence? Any Presence there?”

Once more the shrine-master simply held up a fist.

“Ah you–you can offer up and steal away, put to death and bring to life,” said Land. Then he bowed reverently.

Setsusho’s Verse

River pools below two boulders

Hermit swims long strokes

Against the current

Going nowhere

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