44 Basho's Staff

Basho 'If you have a staff, I give you one.
If you don't have, I'll throw it away.'
(The Koan-answer is the picture's caption!)


Throw something away

An explanation of the Koan answer

This staff is used by masters when they are wandering around in the countryside. Basho announced he'll throw it away. Just do it.

What next?

The background story of this Koan

Basho said to his disciple: "When you have a staff, I will give it to you. If you have no staff, I will take it away from you."

This staff is meant to be the leg of the Buddha, that helps people to come to enlightenment. The staff is even meant to be identical with Buddha's enlightenment.
But enlightenment has no meaning at all. If you think you are enlightened, I'll give you more of the same. If you think you're not enlightened I take even this thinking away.
In both cases, what are you after giving and taking?
Just you.

This Koan is typical in how enlightenment was defined in China, although there's nothing to define.
Don't think about it, just walk your way, with or without a staff, it doesn't matter.

What next?

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The original Chinese Goang

Venerable Bajiao taught the assembly saying, "If you have a 'crutch', I give you a crutch. If you are without a crutch, I snatch your crutch."

What next?

Traditional Commentaries and .... Poems (Gata)

Mumon's comment: When there is no bridge over the creek the staff will help me.
When I return home on a moonless night the staff will accompany me.
But if you call this a staff, you will enter hell like an arrow.

Wumen says: It helps fording across the river of the broken bridge.
It’s my companion returning to the moonless village.
If you call it or take it for a crutch you enter hell like an arrow.

What next?

The Gata

With this staff in my hand
I can measure the depths and shallows of the world.
The staff supports the heavens and makes firm the earth.
Everywhere it goes the true teaching will be spread.

The various methods deep and shallow.
All exist within the grasp of his palm.
Propping up Heaven goes together with supporting the Earth.
Following this point rescues the style of the lineage.

What next?