Huanglong asked, “How is my hand like the Buddha’s hand?”
Longqing answered, “Playing guitar in the moonlight.”

Entangling Vines Case 10

When I heard about this being the koan for the morning meditation, the first thing that popped into my mind was holding Corey Hitchcock’s hand as she lay in her hospital bed in a morphine dream. I didn’t know whose hand was whose.

This question about the Buddha’s hand from Huanglong is one of three questions that form what is called Huanglong’s Three Barriers. The other two questions are, “How is my leg like a donkey’s leg?” and “In the world of karma, everyone has a birthplace. What is yours?”

Huanglong always presented students with these three statements but no one could come up with a satisfactory response. Even with the few who gave answers, Huanglong would neither agree nor disagree but only sit there in formal posture with eyes closed. When asked for his reason, Huanglong replied, “Those who have passed through the gate shake their sleeves and go straight on their way. What do they care if there’s a gatekeeper? Those who seek the gatekeeper’s permission have yet to pass through.”

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the response of “Playing guitar in the moonlight,” but I would ask the person to show it to me, to make it more intimate. That’s where the integration of the practice into our lives is happening. Miming playing a guitar doesn’t do it. I’d then ask, “What if you don’t know how to play guitar?” After showing what it is in the moment, I’d ask, “What is it in your life?” Huanglong sat silently in response; I ask questions.

How would you make it more intimate?

—David Weinstein, January 9th, 2024

David Weinstein Roshi



David Weinstein Roshi, Director of Rockridge Meditation Community


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