‘What is the self of the student?’, the student asked. His teacher replied,’Fire Boy
Comes Seeking Fire.’
~ Extensive Record, Eihei Dogen
Like so many koans, this story, from Dogen’s Extensive Record, has many possible touch points. Here is shortened version: A student met with a teacher, telling him he had been at the temple for three years. ‘So why don’t you ever ask me a question about the Dharma?’ the teacher asked. The student replied that he had no need, having previously found ‘peace and joy’ when he heard the words: ‘The fire boy comes seeking fire’. Explaining, the student said that it was like ‘the self seeking the self’. The teacher said ‘good words, but I am afraid you do not understand them.’
With that, the student, deeply hurt and discouraged, left the temple. Along the way, he stopped and considered that his teacher had a great following and reputation, and perhaps he should go back. He returned, bowed and asked the teacher, ’What is the self of the student?’ The teacher replied ,’The fire boy comes seeking fire.’
With this story, we could talk about turning around from disappointment, about humility, maybe about taking one more step for no good reason. I have been sitting with a lot of young professionals lately, busy people developing careers, some starting families; all busy living their lives. And their concerns are concrete: ‘How do I find meaning in this intense life I live?’ ‘What should I do about my job (boyfriend, apartment)?’ My advice: ‘The fire boy comes seeking fire.’
The fire girl, she travels well. I myself have taken her to many points of the compass, up and down the job ladder, and through a number of love transitions. She is always seeking for fire. Just call her, and she will come meet you right where you are.