Friday, March 14, 2014

This? & Not This?

Hello All, Here is an old translation of the case we are looking at today by Aitken Roshi.

T-ien-t’ung Tsung-chueh was attendant to Wu-k’ung for a long time. One day Wu-k’ung asked him, “What is your view these days?”
Tsung-chueh said, “I want to say, this! this!”
Wu-k’ung said, “It is still not good enough…Try again.”
Tsung-chueh said, “Why isn’t it good enough?”
Wu-k’ung said, “I don’t say what you say is not good enough. But you have not yet realized the uppermost matter.”
Tsung-chueh said, I can speak of the uppermost matter.”
Wu-k’ung said, “What is the uppermost matter?”
Tsung-chueh said, "Though I can speak of it, I cannot show it to you.”
Wu-k’ung said, “Then you truly cannot speak of it.”
Tsung-chueh said, “I humbly beg Your Reverence to say it for me.”
Wu-k’ung said, “You ask me the question,—I will say it for you.”
Tsung-chueh said, “What is the uppermost matter?”
Wu-k’ung said, “I want to say, not this! not this!”
Tsung-chueh hearing this, had realization.

verse: It is like two wedges, upper and lower;
If you press, it does not enter;
If you pull, it does not come out.

During the Branching Moon sesshin next month, I will give teisho on the last 6 chapters in this book so we will be looking at Wu-k’ung and Tsung-chueh’s dialog in more depth than in this short comment. I think this dialog has interesting koan points: “I want to say, this! this!” & “I want to say, not this! not this!” and interesting character building points: “It still isn’t good enough.” & “Why isn’t it good enough?” & “I don’t say it isn’t good enough but…” We Americans do not usually take kindly to hearing, “It still isn’t good enough” because we immediately personalize what is being said and hear, “You are not good enough.”  We don’t even realize we are translating what is being said, that is actually what we hear. This is why zazen can be such an aid for us. As we create space by coming back again and again to our breath, to MU, to shikantaza, we begin the dis-identification process with the manufactured self. We begin, within the ever widening spaces, to hear the wind, to hear the just arrived mourning dove, to hear the uncomplaining last woof of the dying dog. Within the ever widening space, we smell the lingering fragrance of last night’s incense; the almost sweet taste of Chilean blueberries; the softness of white fur covered by a late winter snow. Within the ever expanding space, we forget ourselves and begin to truly see, hear and touch what has always been present…and we begin to hear what is actually being said. Keizan wrote, “When you hear words, you must know their inner meaning and not get trapped by the words. Saying ‘fire” is not the fire itself, and saying “water” is not water itself.” Shih-t’ou said, “When you hear words, you should understand their meaning and not set up any rules of your own.” Our words reveal what is right here, below…just as does the cry of the owl, the whispering of leaves in wind, and the slight shuddering sob of your dearest friend.

Zazen invites us to hear what is actually being said and what isn’t being said. This was Tsung-chueh’s lack. He was stuck to one side of the scale. He knew the great mountain after all the clouds dissipated but he was so mesmerized by his achievement that he failed to see the mountain that is right before us in each venture we are involved in. Maybe we can say, he was confirmed by but he still hadn’t confirmed. Maybe he contained all things but hadn’t quite realized yet, that all contained him. Maybe.

Please take a look at the first 4 lines from the GenjoKoan. Some might think Tsung-chueh is speaking the first line and his teacher adding the corrective of the next line. But I think this dialog is taking place in the third (Tsung-chueh) and the fourth (Wu-k’ung) lines. It isn’t that Tsung-chueh is speaking incorrectly, it is that he is being inaccurate or incomplete. There is more than, just this! just this! There is other than just the flower, just washing your bowls, just standing & sitting. It is always being revealed but it is exposed only to the clear eyed. Here might be another way to say it—there is a grand mountain which is so large and all encompassing that we often look right past it to the smaller mountains and hills and think they are just this! just this! In Zazen Universally Recommended, Dogen when asked how to sit fixedly and think without thoughts said engage in nonthinking, Not thinking, not-not thinking but nonthinking. This is an echo of Wu-k’ung’s not this! not this! His statement is not a negation of anything but an affirmation, for it includes thoughts and no-thoughts. It includes feelings and no-feelings. It includes sensations and no-sensations. It includes each and everything but isn’t tainted or stained by those things. Wu-k’ung’s words are an invitation to wander the circle of wonder. When we wander and wonder, we cannot make or take anything personally. Whether we are successful in wandering and wondering or not, the very same point lies right here, below and so in that we are successful. Whether our zazen is filled with joy and ease or not, still the very same point is right here, below and so we are successful. There isn’t any way to deviate from it, ever. “I didn’t say that what you said wasn’t enough, but you aren’t yet familiar with that which is right here, below.” (Sorry, I am putting in quotes even where I change a few of the words…but I hope not the meaning.)

This! this! Not this! not this! is a wedge that sits above and below. If you press, it doesn’t enter. What would it enter, I wonder? But if you pull, it does not come out. Which of these lines refer to Wu-k’ung’s saying & which to Tsung-chueh’s?




  1. The fan blows. Whir! The air rushes. Whoosh!
    Non-sound? Non-wind?
    Just whir. Just whoosh.
    It's all whir and whoosh.
    Whir disappears in whirring.
    Whoosh disappears in whooshing.

  2. Attendees

    This and Not This reminded us of the Heart Sutra. Both, together at the time of experience which has been described as no-time.

    Pat read from the Genjo Koan. We talked about the first four lines and thought that the first two lines played into the this and not this easier than the third and forth.

    We talked about wedges being used in traditional woodworking joinery.

    “This” and “this does not exists” both express certainty where “not this” expresses uncertainty. We like certainty and avoid uncertainty. This seems an evolutionary thing. A trait we would be better for have cut off.

    We talked again about the ‘inner mean of words’ and our individual skill at their use. Someone asked who is the arbitrator of the meaning of words.

    The inner meaning of words comes to us through our experience not through our thinking about experience.

  3. I sit at the point of two wedges named 'this' and 'not this'. Not moving, I breathe them in and out.


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