When Huangbo first met Baizhang, Baizhang said, “Magnificent! Imposing! Where have you come from?” Huangbo said, “Magnificent and imposing, I’ve come from the mountains.” Baizhang asked, “What have you come for?” Huang Po said, “Not for anything else.”
~ The Blue Cliff Record, Case 11, commentary
“I do not want it this way,” my friend E. recalled saying to himself as he woke up sick, once again. The day before, a few weeks ago, had been a good day, he remembered, one full of light. For some years, E. has suffered from Meniere’s Disease, a condition of the inner ear which causes severe vertigo, nausea, migraine headaches, and vomiting. It comes and goes without warning.
On that previous good day, he had found it necessary to go to the immigration office in the capital of the foreign country in which he lives to renew his resident’s visa. With the Covid delta variant running rampant in his country, and vaccines in short supply, E. found the massive immigration office nearly empty, and went to a far corner to wait. Almost absurdly, a family ~ a father, mother and several little children ~ all unmasked, decided to sit right next to him in the nearly empty room. He had been visiting with Yunmen’s koan, “Everyone has a light inside of them…” Suddenly, as he leaned toward annoyance, E. could see the light inside each member of the family, and the light inside of himself. Quietly, without blame or thought, he just moved away. And in doing so, felt a great and simple freedom. That evening, E. spent some hours on-line helping his son work on a college paper. He was happy. As he later said, ”It was a good day.”
The next morning, “Monsieur Meniere,” visited, completely unexpected. The vertigo, nausea, and headaches became almost unbearable. And then there was the vomiting. He did not want it to be this way. How could this be happening, after such a good day, he asked himself?
At that point, as part of that very inquiry, the above koan came to him: “What have you come for? Not for anything else.” Recalling later, E. said, “It felt like the koan came from inside, as a direct answer to my negative reaction and disappointment.”
He realized, “’Yes, I have come for this. This is for me.’ That was a different kind of understanding. The Meniere’s is for me. The reaction is for me. I can try to push it away, and that pushing away, too, is for me.”
Several decades ago, E. lived in Oman and belonged to a dive club. One time, he took control of the large dive boat, and tried to navigate it, with strong currents and wind, into a small strip of sand between rocks and swimmers. Struggling a bit with control, his dive captain took the wheel, saying, “I’ll take over, you sit down and rest.’ Well, we landed perfectly,” said E. This is how he now works on koans. “The koan says, ‘I’ll handle this for you,” without judgements or reactions. After years of difficult striving in meditation, he said, “I’m quite happy to let the koan do what it wishes to do.”
“Koans are my life; they are not different from my life. There is no separation between life and me, no separation between koans and me,” E. said. “It is like the universe is giving them to me when I am struggling.”
Please join us on Monday night for sharing our experiences of Huangbo and of our own unmerited gifts.