The Blue Cliff Record, Case 23

The Case:
Once, when Pao Fu and Ch’ang Ch’ing were wondering in the mountains, Pao Fu pointed and said “Right here is the summit of the mystic peak”.
Ch’ang Ch’ing said “Indeed it is. What a pity”.

Pointing has a chequered history in zen, fingers pointing to the moon, and suchlike. It’s said that the ideogram for zen represents an eye on the end of a pointed finger. Given that meditation is often described in terms of seeing, seeing things as they are, then the temptation is to see the eye of meditation and the eye of zen as the same eye, the difference being that zen is an actional ‘seeing’ rather than a contemplative one, but still attending to how things are.

From this perspective, Pao Fu is pointing at suchness.

But what if the eye on the pointed finger isn’t seeing how things are, but is seeing the pointing? Given that Pao Fu isn’t pointing at anything -and who, or what else is ‘right here’ if it isn’t him? –
couldn’t we say that he is pointing at his nature – which is pointing? Hence Ch’ang Ch’ing’s ‘disappointment’.

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