Book Of Serenity, Case 22: Yantou's Bow & Roar
Yantou came to Deshan's place. With a foot on each side
of the threshold, he asked, "Is this holy? Is this ordinary?"
Yantou bowed politely.
Hearing about this, Dongshan said, "No one but clearsighted Yantou would have understood that."
Yantou said, "That good old boy Dongshan can't tell good from bad. At that moment I raised up with one hand and pressed down with the other."
The part of the koan that draws me in is the straddling of the threshold. It seems a good place from which to ask questions and explore the way of things, a foot in each of the realms of possibility rather than taking up a position in one, both feet planted beneath. It seems conducive to dialogue, whereas taking up a position tends to lends itself to debate (to which I can testify, having been visited by someone sharing Bible verses within the last hour, interested in having a conversation but never really meeting). It reminds me of how Chan monks are said to have greeted one another - rather than asking "How are you?" they would begin their meeting and conversation with "I am not certain." Dizang's "Not knowing is most intimate" also comes to mind.
What is it like to relate to life in this way? Not only in our meetings with one another, but throughout all we experience as we make our way along day to day, as our thoughts, opinions, judgments, emotions arise and we form ideas about the way things are. What if, in the midst of all that, we try to connect with being in
that place of the threshold, of "Yes, it seems to be like this, and yet..."
You're invited to carry the above thoughts with you as well as the larger territory of the koan, to see what happens, which I'd hope you'd share here. What part of the koan lights up for you? Where does it snag or stick? What comes up for you as you initially read it? What happens when you allow it to be your companion over the coming days,