Recorded Sayings of Zen master Joshu, Case 126 [translation by James Green]

The Master instructed the assembly saying, “ I do not enjoy hearing the word ‘Buddha’

A monk asked, “Do you help people, or not?”

The Master said, “ I help people”

The monk said, “ How do you help people?”

The Master said, “Not aware of the deep principle, futilely labouring to calm the mind”

The monk said, “ You said it was deep, but what is the principle?”

The Master said, “ I don’t hold on to a basis”

The monk said, “ That is deep, what is the principle?”

The master said, “ The principle is answering you”


Joshu’s “Not aware..” is a direct quote from the Verses of Faith Mind.

This Faith Mind includes your karmic mind, but is much deeper. A frequent analogy is with the ocean. At the surface, the ocean may be calm or agitated, but it is of infinite depth, and so we shouldn’t be too concerned about these surface fluctuations, even although the waves can only see themselves.

The monk’s response seems to indicate that he is looking for a conceptual answer, as if we are some way off the ground, and can only touch it through a scaffolding of ideas. And that scaffolding can be ‘buddha’ or ‘dependent origination’, or whatever. But we aren’t castles in the air, we’re human beings.

Okumura roshi says [pointing to the head] that we are five or six feet off the ground, and it’s true. But the Body of faith grounds us.