The Girl Comes Out of Meditation

Once upon a time, Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, went to an assemblage of Buddhas. By the time he arrived, all had departed except for the Buddha Sakyamuni and one girl. She was seated in a place of highest honour, deep in meditation. Manjusri asked the Buddha how it was possible for a mere girl to attain a depth of meditation that even he could not attain. The Buddha said, "Bring her out of meditation and ask her yourself."

So Manjusri walked around the girl three times [a gesture of reverence], then snapped his fingers. She remained deep in meditation. He then tried rousing her by invoking all his magic powers; he even transported her to a high heaven. All was to no avail, so deep was her concentration. But suddenly, up from below the earth sprag Momyo, an unenlightened one. He snapped his fingers once, and the girl came out of her meditation.

The principals of this koan are symbolic. Manjusri personifies wisdom; Momyo its opposite. How is it that a mere girl could attain a state that Manjusri couldn't? Why was the wise Manjusri unable even to rouse her to learn the answer to that question? The purpose of meditation is to overcome duality, to become selfless-ness. Selfless-ness can be likened to a bottle filled to capacity; when the cork is put in, no matter how you shake it, toss it, drop it, there is no noise. But if the bottle is only half full, it makes the sound of water. Of course, if the bottle is empty, there is no sound, but there is no water, either. Merely "sitting quietly" in meditation is like a bottle without any water. True meditation is like the bottle filled to the top. The girl in the koaan was selfless-ness. Even Manjusri couldn't rouse her. Then how could Momyo, an ignoramus, rouse the girl? Even the wise man, if he becomes attached to wisdom, becomes the the victim of wisdom. Even good deeds, if we become attached to them, become bad. Non-attachment is the Way.


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