The Master Covers His Head

A monk entered Joshu's room to do sanzen and found him sitting with his head covered by his robe. The monk retreated. "Brother," said Joshu, "do not say I did not receive your sanzen."

When the Zen student goes to his teacher's room to receive personal guidance, that is called sanzen. To the struggling student sanzen is always a serious encounter, often approached with hope, fear, or despair. In this koan the monk was aghast to find his teacher with his head covered. Was he cold? Sleeping? Attached to his expectations, the monk retreated - but Joshu was not asleep. Though a mountain is covered by clouds, the mountain is there, obscured or not.


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