As the officer Lu Hsuan was conversing with Nan Ch’uan, he said “The Dharma Master Chao say, ‘Heaven and earth and I have the same root; myriad things and I are one body’ ~ that is quite marvelous.”

Nan Ch’uan pointed to a flower in the garden and said to the grandee, “People today see this flower as if in a dream.”

~ Blue Cliff Record, Case 40

For me, the main point that Nan Ch’uan is making in this koan is to experience the myriad things directly rather than vicariously through quoting Master Chao, as with the flower that he points to. The sweet smell, bright color and soft touch the petals are the one body. But I also think he is making another, more subtle point: people these days see the flower as in a dream. What is wrong with that? The dream and dreaming itself are marvelous.

Koans at times dig up what seem to be non-sequitur memories. For some reason, this koan reminded me of a time years ago when I went with a friend to a movie. It was the first time going out together, so of course, I invited her to come see Ikuru, the Akira Kurosawa classic about a bureaucrat dying of cancer who bucks the system to help some locals build a playground. Before the movie started, my friend asked me what was my favorite movie. It sounds impossibly corny, but I told her truthfully that it was Man of La Mancha with the theme song To Dream the Impossible Dream. She exploded into a loud cackle, drawing viewer’s shushes around us.

I think it is great to tip at windmills and to dream the impossible dream. Reality, flowers, Dulcinea, Buddha nature; there is not one thing outside of this dream, dreamed by the people of today. This is my quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far.

Andy Williams singing The Impossible Dream ,