The Gateless Gate, Case 37

The Gateless Gate, Case 37

The Case: A monk asked Joshu: “Why did Bodhidharma come from the West?”

Joshu said “The cypress tree in the courtyard”

Commentary: The standard interpretation of this koan is that the questioner was caught by language. He thought the tree was an objective thing. He couldn’t see the being- ness of the tree, and so he couldn’t see the dynamic being- ness of everything.

But there is something else hidden in there. In our usual way of thinking, Bodhidharma travelled from India to China. The tree didn’t move at all. Likewise, we may act as if we are the subject and the world is the object; we are active and ‘things’ are passive.

If we look at a clutch of trees, we can often see the oldest tree, then, a little distance away, another tree, derived from the first, and so on. The tree is walking through time. We don’t see it, the tree doesn’t see it, but it’s there.

The path is walking and we are walking. Everything is expressing and exerting itself, together.