By Tim Lerch JDPSN. Lerch Poep Sa Nim will be leading Kyol Che here at PZC from February 5th – 18th.
Student: I don’t like this kong-an that I have been working on. Every time I think about it I get angry and frustrated.
Tim Lerch JDPSN: Why are you dragging your corpse around?
Student: I don’t understand. I asked you about not liking my kong-an.
Tim Lerch JDPSN: Your kong-an is already teaching you that if you approach it using your habitual like and dislike thinking, the inevitable result is frustration and confusion, even anger. You also experience this in your everyday life, right?
Student: I guess so. Yes.
Tim Lerch JDPSN: Then you’re already dead! If you’re correctly working on your kong-an, then you aren’t in the realm of like or dislike. To work on a kong-an means to return to your don’t know mind. Don’t know is before like and dislike, before working or not working on a kong-an, before any opposites at all, even life and death.
When you are asked a kong-an and you hit the floor, at that moment you become one with the kong-an. You actually become one with the whole universe. That doesn’t have correct or incorrect, like or dislike. It’s already complete. There is incredible power in that moment of complete not knowing. When we return to don’t know, our job is always right in front of us. In fact our whole life is just that moment! But if we immediately re-enter the realm of like or dislike, then we can never find our job.
The “Mind Meal” of our school has 12 courses, 12 gates. These 12 gates are actually no different than our everyday life. This is what I call the 13th gate! That’s your moment-to-moment life. How do you respond to that kong-an? Do you like it? Do you dislike it? Do you dodge difficult situations? Do you try to create comfortable situations? Practicing helps us to see that the 13th gate is always right in front of us, but with this gate there isn’t a Zen master sitting across from us to verify whether or not we are correct. That’s when kong-an practice takes root, becomes real and is not just an exercise in how clever we can be. If we are willing to respond directly out of our intuition, our innate wisdom, then any kong-an is no problem. We may even become elated when we respond and really nail it. But on the other hand when we can’t answer clearly, how do we respond to that? Are we willing to completely not know?
Suppose someone you love is dying. That is a very difficult kong-an that we all face in our lives. There’s no one you can go to and say, “I’m sorry. but I really don’t like this kong-an that I have been given. My father is dying, but I think I would like to try another one. This one is too uncomfortable.” No one can take that kong-an away from you. You are working on it whether you like it or not. That is the real meaning of kong-an, whether you like it or not… it’s yours!