Two Monks Roll Up the Screen

Hogen was about to lecture when he noticed that the bamboo screen, lowered for meditation, had not been rolled up. He pointed to it. Two monks rose, wordlessly, at the same time and rolled it up. Observing them, Hogen said to the audience: "The state of the first monk is good, not that of the second."

Master Hogen said that one monk was enlightened, the other not. One is right, the other wrong, although both did the same thing, together, at the same time. This koan indicates the idea of the Absolute where sameness is difference and difference is sameness. It is like water in a glass: both look the same; both are transparent. But the water is water, and the glass is glass.

On the other hand, perhaps Master Hogen deliberately tried to confuse his students to test their power of understanding. Don't believe something just because the Master says so. Maybe the Master himself is mistaken!


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