The background story of this Koan
Sekiso asked: "How can you proceed on from the top of a hundred-foot pole?"
Another Zen teacher said: "One who sits on the top of a hundred-foot pole has attained a certain height but still is not handling Zen freely. He should proceed on from there and appear with his whole body in the ten parts of the world."
The full text of the Koan is even more frightening than the short version for its about sitting on top of a terrible high pole.
Nobody knows exactly why Sekiso quotes this story. I think he wanted to test his disciples.
It's said, he once visited a cousin who was a famous Zen-master.
When Sekiso arrived at this monastery he shouted fire, fire, fire. All the monks ran away to look for the fire. Including the master.
Sekiso turned around and went away.
It's the same with this pole. It's high, high high. Keep your balance, don't fall down. Don't move the old master warned.
Respond like Sekiso did at his cousin's monastery. Just walk away. There was no fire, there is no pole.
The original Chinese Goang
Venerable Shishuang said,
"So, how do you step forward from the top of a one hundred foot pole?”
Also, a virtuous one of old said,
“A person, for shelter, sits on top of a one hundred foot pole.
Even if he is able to enter like that, it is not yet the real.
He must step forward from the top of the one hundred foot pole.
The world of ten directions manifests the complete body.”
Traditional Commentaries and .... Poems (Gata)
One can continue his steps or turn his body freely about on the top of the pole. In either case he should be respected.
I want to ask you monks, however: How will you proceed from the top of that pole? Look out!
If your step is able to advance, if your body is able to fly, then instead of disliking, what place is not fit to be esteemed?
Thus, supposing you are like that, just say, so how do you step forward from the top of a one hundred foot pole? Hah!