Hoju Turns His Back

Joshu visited Hoju one day. When Hoju saw him coming, he turned his back. Joshu spread his mat and prepared to bow to Hoju, but Hoju immediately stood up and returned to his room. Joshu picked up his mat and left.

This is a wordless koan, a tremendous challenge and response. Seeing Joshu coming, Hoju turned away, offering no words or explanation. Joshu, very naturally, spread the mat that all Zen monks carry and prepared to pay respect as he should. But Hoju stood up and went to his room. Joshu, instead of thinking, "Ah, there must be some deep meaning in that," simply rolled up his mat and left. Joshu was as natural as the wind in the pine branches, as natural as a shadow that follows an object or a sound that creates an echo. One comes and one goes. It's a very peaceful movement. Joshu is like a fisherman who goes fishing, encounters rain, puts on his rain gear, and returns home without casting his line. It was just such a day.


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