Roso Faces the Wall

When monks or laymen came from instructions or with questions, Master Roso would turn his back and face the wall. Nansen, his fellow monk, criticised this method. "I tell monks to put themselves into the time before Buddha was born in the world, but few of them truly realise my Zen. Merely sitting against the wall like Brother Roso would never do the monks any good.

Communication is a great problem in life - it was in ancient days as well as today, it is in the business world as well as in Zen. There are two types of communication. One is at the level of facts: "I will arrive at ten o'clock tomorrow morning." The other is at the non-verbal level of feelings, sympathy, love. Zen teaching is a communication of life. Roso tries by sitting, wordlessly, facing a wall. Nansen criticises this method, pointing out that even when he explains Zen, only a few realise the truth; therefore Roso's wordless method can do no good at all. But people, ancient and modern, become less thinking, less creative, when everything is poured into them. Roso's method may be better after all. When a pupil comes for instruction and the maters immediately turns, facing the wall, the student can not ask any questions. He can do nothing but sit quietly, and he has the opportunity to meditate right there because the teacher is in meditation. Thus the student can look within and clarify his own thoughts instead of receiving explanations from outside.


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