When you sit before the master he will ask you a question. Consider your answer carefully then offer it to the master. He will simply say, “correct.” Later, when you sit before the master he will ask you the same question. Offer your answer to the master. He will simply say “incorrect.” If you ask him how your answer can be both correct and incorrect, the master will look through you, and simply smile and say “Correct”.
A reflection on case 31 of the Blue Cliff Record koans.
If you want an answer do not ask a question – your answer cannot be mine nor can mine be yours. Instead, ask the stone wall, it has nothing to say and in its perfect silence all questions are asked and all answers are found.
A reflection on Case 41 of the Shobogenzo, Dogen’s True Dharma Eye
The last time we spoke you asked me when the end was coming. I didn’t have a good answer for you, wasn’t even quite sure what you meant by the question, the end of what? Of time, of your life or mine, or merely the end of a conversation we had been carrying on for as long as either of us could remember. That was some time ago and I have thought about your question quite frequently and seeing you today, you walking by me without acknowledging me, I realize the answer should have been and most certainly now is that the end came the moment you started your question.
Only the fool will wander from teacher to teacher seeking answers. They will offer only questions.
The wise one returns to the question again and again for she may find many answers within, just as the apple tree bears many ripe fruit if carefully tended, each with the seeds of a new tree. Pick carefully.
If you are asked “who are you?” how will you reply, and who is the person asking the question? If you answer, you are blind if you say nothing you speak loudly. The sage will tell you that there is no you and if you doubt him he will hold up a mirror and ask what you see. If you answer “I see myself” he will laugh because no one can see themselves unless they see everyone, for you are both the reader and the writer of these poor words.
A reflection on case 131 of the Shobogenzo (True Dharma Eye)
His is six and deeply confused, and asks questions to end that state. He wants to know if Adam and Eve had two sons, and one killed the other, where did all of the people come from? Ask your father seems and easy answer, but one he cannot accept, too easy for a mind that needs timely response. I stumble around, try to deflect, and finally admit I don’t know but that some stories cannot be taken literally. He knows what that word means, and it is a sufficient explanation for now. In a week we’ll have the conversation once again, this time not Adam, not Eve, but Shem, Ham and Japheth, and how the three sons of Noah repopulated the entire planet, and I will once again admit to my sad lack of knowledge, and silently curse the Religious School for creating the abyss into which my grandson is all to pleased to lead me.
It’s all a question of knowing where to look for one, but ask what would you do if you stumbled across it. It’s not a simple decision, nor should it be. The better question still is how you will know when you finally find it, for it is marked only deep within your heart.