The Gateless Gate, Case 24

The Gateless Gate, Case 24

The case: A monk asked Feng- hsueh, “Speech and silence are concerned with equality and differentiation, how can I transcend equality and differentiation?”

Feng- hsueh replied, “I always think of Chiang-nan in March, Partridges chirping among the many fragrant flowers.”


In this koan story, the monk is asking a clear question about Buddhist Doctrine. The master replies with what appears to be a complete non-sequitur, quoting a poem, which isn’t even his own poem. So one might imagine that the monk is asking an intellectual question and the master is trying to defeat it. But perhaps we are better seeing the monk’s question as exemplifying him having a particular, heroic idea of practice. Smashing through barriers. The master is balancing – not correcting- that understanding by simply expressing his present feeling state.

If as practitioners our attention is always on progress, like a fly trying to find where there is no glass, we pay no attention to the ground, the ground of our feeling being. Which is not heroic, but real. Not somewhere in the future, but now.

The thinking mind freezes all things, and itself. Everything can be seen yet nothing can be felt. Our practice is a kind of thawing out, a softening, despite ourself.