Man Up a Tree

Kyogen said, "It is like a person up a tall tree, hanging from a branch by his teeth; his hands can't grasp a bough; his feet won't reach one.. Under the tree there is another person who asks the meaning of Bodhidharma's coming from the West. If the person in the tree doesn't answer, he evades the problem; if he does answer, he will fall and lose his life."

Enlightenment is a matter of life and death. It requires total effort, not mere intellectual understanding. Some students try to understand koans intellectually, and once they have pereceived the intellectual content, they think they have understood. That kind of understanding has nothing to do with life. Zen life is the life of totality.


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