Isan's Time

Isan said to his monks, "Winter repeats its cold days every year. Last year was as cold as this year, and next year we will have the same cold weather. Tell me, monks, what the days of the year are repeating." Gyosan, the senior disciple, made a traditional gesture of respect and remained silent. "I knew you could not answer my question," Isan said and turned to his junior disciple, Kyogen, and asked, "What do you say?" Kyogen replied, "I am sure I can answer your question." But before he could proceed further, Isan said, "I am the glad the senior monk could not answer me."

Time flows like water in the river. Winter and summer come and go naturally year after year and need no explanation. They are beyond human artificiality. Neither Gyosan, the senior disciple, nor Kyogen, the junior disciple, could answer the question their teacher presented. But the junior disciple was rash enough to assert he could. Isan cut him short. No answer is better than a conceptual answer. The truth is beyond concept and explanation. Ask me what love is; I will embrace you.


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