The Gateless Gate, Case 5

The Gateless Gate, Case 5.

The case: Hsiang- yen said: “It is just as though you were up a tree, hanging from a branch with your teeth. Your hands and feet can’t touch any branch. Someone appears beneath the tree and asks, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the West?” If you do not answer, you evade your responsibility. If you do answer, you lose your life. What do you do?”

Commentary: How many are in this story: two, one, or many?

Sometimes, when we sit, we feel completely concentrated and unified. Like the man holding onto the branch with his teeth, our complete effort in this moment occupies the whole space.

Then, it is as if, from within our experience someone, someone just like us, asks a question, makes a statement, or something similar. It is as if we are suddenly divided. Do we ignore it? Do we engage with it? Either way, we appear to fall into duality.

We need to understand that just as the man holding onto the branch is making a complete effort, just as the branch and the tree are making a complete effort, so the questioner is making a complete effort, entirely expressing his nature. We imagine a response is called for, but we are mistaken.

Likewise with delusion.