Shinji Shobogenzo Book 2, Case 36.

Koan Commentaries

Master Joshu asked Master Tosu Daido: What is the situation of a man who has experienced the great death and lives again?

Master Tosu said: I will not allow such a person to walk around at night. When it has become light in the morning, he can come here.

Commentary by Nishijima

The words “to experience the great death and live again,” which can be found certain Buddhist literature, sound very dramatic. Master Tosu said that the situation of a person who has had such an experience is just a common everyday fact. It is as common and natural as the fact that the monks don’t wander around at night and when it becomes light they visit the master in his room.

To experience the great death means to enter reality. What is it that dies at such a time? We can say that our attachment to, or identification with, the intellect and the emotions dies during such an experience. After the great death we live in reality – not in the world of thinking or the world of emotions. However, it is also true that we are living in reality all the time, so to die the great death does not mean that we enter some extra-ordinary state, but just that we experience and fully participate in the reality that is always present in ordinary life.

Commentary by John Fraser

Our task as practitioners is to see the emptiness of all things. But in itself, that isn’t sufficient. It is a kind of sickness, because it has no heart.

If we look at the world with our mind, we only see shadows of the self. But the world is always there, concealed in your heart. When the heart opens, the world appears.