‘If you do not pass the barrier of the ancestors, if you do not cut off the mind road, then you are a ghost clinging to the bushes and grasses’
~ Gateless Barrier, Case 1, Wu-men’s comment
As great as he was, Wu-men got it backwards: Only if you are a ghost can you pass through the barriers set up by the ancestors; only if you are a ghost can you cut off the mind road. The
specter of Wu-men is just rattling our chains and jerking our manacles.
Clinging, of course, is what ghosts do: they want to be something other than what they are. They want to be different, to be whole. Clinging is also what we humans do: we want to be enlightened, to be different from what we are, to be perfect and whole. But the strange thing is, perfect beings cannot pass through the barrier of the ancestors. Only imperfect ones ~ ghosts ~ can pass through.
I often recall a friend’s story about how she passed through her first gate. She said, ‘I realized that ‘I’ could not answer the teacher’s questions about the koan No (Mu), but ‘No’ could.’ With that, she felt a great joy. In that same way, ‘we’ with our set ideas about perfection, cannot pass through the barrier of the ancestors. But ‘we’ the ghost can. Go ahead, go save one.
I was watching a recent Ghost Adventures (one of my favorites) on the Travel Channel, which claims to be a reality television show about investigators who go to haunted sites to document paranormal activity. In one haunted house, the investigators recorded an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) of a spirit that said, ’What are you doing here? You are a FAKE!’ Ah ha, just another ghost clinging to the idea of being a media critic.