|The koan this week came as a remedial response to a number of folks who reported having difficulty with last Sunday’s koan, ‘9 x 9 = 83’. In that koan we are invited to ‘enter there’, where 9 x 9 = 83, into the place where an inch isn’t always and inch, a pound isn’t always a pound and 9 x 9 doesn’t always equal 81. Nothing is always so and bumping into our unrealized assumption that it is, can be a gate, a place to enter.Actually, I’m not sure how much of a remedy this second koan is, things seem to be more complicated now. Instead of one entry involving 9 x 9, we have two. One is where 9 x 9 = 83 and the other is where 9 x 9 = 81. Perhaps it will help to know, or not, that Yunmen also answered similar questions by saying 7 x 9 = 63, or that the record of the teaching of Yuanwu, the compiler of the Blue Cliff Record has instances where he replied to such questions by sometimes saying, 6 x 6 = 36 or 9 x 9 = 81.
So, what is all this multiplication about? Actually, it is not about multiplication, it is about division. The way we divide the world up into little pieces, separating ourselves from each other and ourselves and what happens when we don’t. It is about multiplication in the sense that our delusions about the way things are, multiply exponentially as we continue to divide.
In Tang Dynasty China, the multiplication tables began with 9 x 9. It is like saying something is as simple as 1 + 1 = 2.
‘Going beyond’ is as simple as realizing that our nose is vertical and our mouth is horizontal and that 9 x 9 = 81.