Examining Two Monks

Joshu visited a monk, who had retired to meditate, and asked, "What is, is what?" The monk raised a fist. Joshu replied, "Ships cannot remain where the water is too shallow." And he left. Joshu went to visit another monk and asked the same question. The monk answered the same way. Joshu said, "Well given, well taken, well killed, well saved." And he bowed to the monk.

Both monks did the same thing. But Joshu saw that one was not enlightened, and the other was enlightened. This koan resembles "Basho's Staff." Only when one understands beyond forms and gestures can one understand uniqueness. Only when one transcends is and is-not, this and that, can love without possession, eat when hungry, and rest when tired.


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