I’ll die and you’ll die and we’ll end up as two heaps of ashes.
At that time, where will we meet?
—Entangling Vines Case 18
What does it mean to “meet?” I have been encountering the word so often lately, it has become a kind of koan for me. The Oxford Dictionary shows it’s Old English root is mētan, meaning “to come upon.” The Chinese characters for “meet” in the above koan are 相見 (J. shōken), which means “seeing each other,” and in Zen is the formal first meeting between a teacher and student. Where will we see each other?
The above lines about two people meeting after their passing comes from a lovely story about a poet visiting several Zen teacher friends:
The first teacher asks the poet, “Do you know the line from Confucius, ‘My friends, you think I’m hiding something from you. In fact, I am hiding nothing from you.’ That is very much like the great matter of our school.”
The poet did not understand.
Later, while strolling together in the mountains where the air was filled with the scent of blossoms, the teacher asked, “Do you smell the fragrance of the sweet-olive blossoms?”
“I do”, replied the poet.
“You see, I’m hiding nothing from you,” said the teacher, and the poet instantly awakened.
He later visited another teacher, who asked him about meeting after they die. Again, the poet could not respond. Later, while traveling, he awoke from a nap and grasped the second teacher’s meaning, attaining great freedom.
I was speaking with a friend recently about his teenage grandchild, who had recently made two attempts on her life by taking pills. Each time she ingested the pills, in relatively weak dosages, she alerted her parents and was taken to the emergency room. It was a cry to be seen.
My friend and his wife recently stayed with their granddaughter when the parents were away on business. They did little but spend time with her: attending her baseball game, watching movies together, having dinner. Toward the end of the visit, while sitting on the couch together, she rested her head on her grandpa’s lap and he gently stroked her hair. She was meeting them; they in turn were meeting her.