Shinji Shobogenzo Book 1, Case 89.

Koan Commentaries

One day Master Sekiso asked his Jisha (assistant): Master Dogo once said to a monk, “You should not throw away that place and become attached to this place.” What is your opinion?

The Jisha said: I rely completely on your understanding, Master.

The Master said: What is my understanding?

The Jisha walked from the west to the east and stood there.

The Master said: You just threw away that place and became attached to this place.

Commentary by Nishijima

Master Sekiso said “You should not throw away that place and become attached to this place.” Buddhism teaches the middle way. The middle way is the way between the attachment and detachment. Usually we leave one place with intention of getting to another place. We throw away the place we are at to get to the place we want to be. Buddhism teaches as that reality is where we are now.

The monk said that his understanding was the same as his Master’s. However, the Master asked him to demonstrate his understanding. When the Master saw his assistant simply walking from that place to this place, he realised that the assistant simply walked here to there, not showing oneness of being in his action.

Commentary by John Fraser

The monk laboured under a misconception about language. He imagined that language is ‘conceptual’ and action is non conceptual, and so thought he could only express Sekiso’s teachings by doing something, rather than saying something. As if, somehow, to read the book is conceptual but to burn the book isn’t.

Wholehearted expression – and its opposite – sometimes uses words, sometimes uses actions, sometimes uses silence.

If your words are superficial, why should your silence be profound?