Proceed from the Top of a Hundred-foot Pole

Seiko asked, "How can you proceed on from the top of a hundred-foot pole?" Another Master said, "One sitting on the top of a hundred-foot pole has entered the Way but is not yet the real thing. He should proceed on from there and reveal his true self in the ten directions."

Anyone can climb to the top of a hundred-foot pole by effort. But to proceed further is logically impossible. How can the student do it? He can come to understand satori (Nirvana, enlightenment) but knowing what satori is, is not Zen. Zen is life, and life is superior to logic. Unless the student puts his life into it, he will never attain it. If one wants to test gold, one must smelt it in a blazing furnace. If one wants a cub, one must go into the lion's den.

As for the second Master's comment, merely attaining enlightenment (sitting on top of the pole) is not enough. One must go farther - in the ten directions of east, west, north, south, northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest, above, and below. One must live satori, the Master says. Real enlightenment means "Samsara [everyday life] is Nirvana; Nirvana is Samsara."


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