Wednesday Zen with David Weinstein
Wuzi said, “It is like a buffalo jumping through a window.
Its head, horns, and four legs all pass through.
Why can’t its tail pass through?”
—Gateless Barrier #38
The koan for this week stopped me in a couple of different ways. First of all I thought the teacher’s name was Wuzu, not Wuzi. Every translation that I looked at has Wuzu as the name except for Joan Sutherland’s version, which has Wuzi except in one place where it is Wuzu. “A rose by any other name”… but it was interesting to notice the way it stirred my mind. Interesting to notice the tail that did not pass through whether by jumping or otherwise.
The other way the koan stopped me was the word “jumping.” In every other translation that I could find the word that is used is “passing” which led me to sit with the difference that I felt between “passing” and “jumping.”
That word “jumping” brought along another koan about taking a step off the hundred-foot pole and how it says “take a step” and not “jump.” How it feels more like I find myself one step off the hundred-foot pole and I don’t know how I got there. Whether taking a step or jumping it seems entirely too much of me involved.
I suppose it is the same with the buffalo, though the image that I found to go along with the koan perhaps speaks to another possibility. It is a picture of the running of the bulls in a town in Spain where one of the bulls got so confused and frightened it tried jumping through a window. I suppose that happens for us too, we get so confused and frightened that we jump, without even knowing what we’re doing. Ever have that happen?
So, whether it’s Wuzu or Wuzi, whether it’s passing or jumping, what about that tail?