The teacher asked a court official, “When you were young, did you read a poem which went something like:

“She calls to her maid, ‘Little Jade!’ Not because she wants something, but just so her lover will hear her voice.”

The official said, “Yes, I read it.”

The teacher said, “That is very near to Zen.”


As we practice, more and more we hear the world calling to us in a sweet and warm voice. Our task in practice, if can assume there is one, is to turn the volume down a bit on our noisy heads so we can more clearly hear tht the world is calling. This Little Jade story, which has more bits to it than the above, is a touching presentation of that calling: Just to us; all for us. The crows, sun, moon and great earth all want us to join in the play, want us to hear the voice of our lover. But for some reason ~ it probably has something to do with being human ~ we hear but do not listen. We see, but do not notice.

I remember several years ago there was a long retreat in which this koan was put out as a kind of focus story for the week. Passing through the kitchen, I saw one of the kitchen volunteers banging and rooting around in the cabinet of pots, calling out ‘Little Jade! Little Jade! Where have you gone?!’ It was such a hilarious scene I burst out laughing and laughing. My friend was searching for his lover, and it was a beautiful and sweet thing to watch.