Everyday Life Is the Way

Joshu asked Nansen, "What is the Way?" Nansen said, "Everyday life is the Way." Joshu asked, "Can it be studied?" Nansen replied, "If you try to study, you will be far away from it. Joshu asked, "If I do not study, how can I know it is the Way?" Nansen said, "The Way does not belong to the perception world, neither does it belong to the nonperception world. Cognition is a delusion and noncognition is senseless. If you want to reach the true Way beyond doubt, place yourself in the same freedom as the sky. You name it neither good nor not-good."

This is not really a koan; it explains a central idea in Oriental philosophy, particularly in Zen Buddhism. Zen, after all, is finding the Way and walking the Way. The difficult part is that while the Way must be sought, the sought Way is not the true Way. The Way, Nansen explains, does not belong to the scholar who knows about it, nor to the ignoramus who lives it but does not know about it. It is never attained by seeking it relatively. The Way is absolute, beyond the relative world of comparison and explanation. It is life itself. The Way is universal, yet when one lives it, it is uniquely his own.


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