Monday, July 11, 2011

Yanguan’s “Rhinoceros Fan”

One day Yanguan called to his attendant, “Bring me the rhinoceros fan.”
The attendant said, “The fan is broken.”
Yanguan said, “If the fan is broken, then bring me the rhinoceros [buddha-nature].”
The attendant had no reply.
Zifu drew a circle and wrote the word ‘rhino’ inside it.

For many, many years, whenever I heard someone say that “Everything is perfect,” it used to really piss me off.  Obviously everything is not perfect: there is suffering and starvation and molestation and war and the ongoing destruction of our planet.

So I was really interested in my negative reaction to my teacher’s commentary on this koan, in which he said that “Everything is already broken,” because it has occurred to me lately that everything – in a way – is actually perfect. 

Often meditation instructions include visualizing one’s thoughts as clouds coming and going against an infinite, blue sky.  And, actually, thoughts are like clouds.  They are instantaneous neurochemical connections.  They have no innate, substantial being.  They are events, not things.

Other than frank, physical pain, how could we find the location of “thing-ness” or suffering or brokenness? There has been, of course, suffering in each of our lives, but where is it now?  Now – in this moment – it is just an idea, insubstantial, changing, and, in a sense, unreal.

Yesterday I went to our zendo in Pacifica.  The morning was bright and full of birdsong.
I sat and composed this little verse:

On this radiantly beautiful morning,
Sitting in the cool zendo,
I simply cannot find brokenness.

So just as the attendant in the rhinoceros fan koan could not bring the broken fan, maybe we cannot “bring” our brokenness into this instant moment.

Wow!  What joy and freedom in that!

1 comment:

  1. what a wonderful 'retirement' you are having barbara, benefiting all beings.
    thank you for your blog, your deep heart and your clear eye.