43 Shuzan's Short Staff

Schuzan 'Don't oppose reality, don't ignore
the facts. What is it, my short staff?
(The Koan-answer is the picture's caption!)

Shuzan

Show the Short Staff



An explanation of the Koan answer

Another Koan that intend's to "drive" you away from reality into some kind of philosophical pondering. Is this staff real? Is reality perhaps something totally different? Useless. Thinking. A staff is a staff is a staff. Finish.

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The background story of this Koan

Shuzan held out his short staff and said:
"If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality. If you do not call it a short staff, you ignore the fact.
Now what do you wish to call this?"

This short staff symbolizes the status of a master. It's like the golden cross of a bishop. Some Master hold it in front of them when they enter the meditation-hall. In some ways the staff represents the masters state of enlightenment.
Just to call it a staff is to ignore it's spiritual significance. But however you call it, it's just a piece of wood.

This Koan again tries to drive you mad. Shuzan liked do to that. Just another example.
Question: What does the empty heart take as its essence?
"The old monk is at your feet", replied the master.
"Why is the venereal sir at the students feet?" asked the monk.
"Because it is known that you are a blind fellow", replied the master.

What to do after such an exchange? Just forget your intelligent questions and respond to the world as it is.

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Zen Riddle #57-way :
Why is the way intrinsically already accomplished?
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#10-birds #51-clay #28-leg mumonkan



The original Chinese Goang

Venerable Shoushan picked up his “bamboo comb” and said to the assembly,
"You people of various ranks, if you call out ‘bamboo comb’ you butt your head into the norm.
Not calling out ‘bamboo comb’ you turn your back to the norm.
You various people, just say what do you call out?”

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Traditional Commentaries and .... Poems (Gata)

Mumon's comment: If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality. If you do not call it a short staff, you ignore the fact.
It cannot be expressed with words and it cannot be expressed without words.
Now say quickly what it is.

Wumen says:To call out “bamboo comb” you butt your head into the norm. Not to call out “bamboo comb” you turn your back to the norm.
It is not proper to have words; it is not proper to be without words.
Speak quickly! Speak quickly!

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The Gata

Holding out the short staff,
He gave an order of life or death.
Positive and negative interwoven,
Even Buddhas and patriarchs cannot escape this attack.

Picking up and raising the “bamboo-comb,"
He decrees the killing and saving of lives.
When turning the back and butting the head intersect and propagate,
Buddhas and ancestors beg for their lives.

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