Yunmen was asked, “What is reaching the light?”
He replied, “ Forget the light; give me the reaching!”
When writing something about the koan that I’m bringing to our meditation, usually the first thing I do is look for an image. As I was looking for an image for this koan from Yunmen, I noticed that pictures showing someone reaching for something didn’t quite do it. There are many pictures of hands reaching skyward, but even having the sky as the object of the reaching didn’t feel right. It wasn’t big enough. Then I noticed I found myself gravitating towards children. Something about the way an infant or toddler reaches, apparently just for the sake of reaching, that felt more in the spirit of what Yunmen was saying about reaching. The questioner is asking about reaching the light, and Yunmen tells him to forget about the light. Forget about having an object of your reaching, just reach!
Earlier in my practice I often shared a room with the same person during retreats. I was struck by how often and wholeheartedly he said something was interesting. Usually he was referring to something about his own behavior that he had observed. At that time, I wondered how I might become as curious as he was about my own behavior, rather than judgmental, and I have. It seems that paying attention, noticing what we notice when we meditate and in between, encourages and nurtures curiosity. Yunmen’s reaching feels like curiosity to me.
When Yunmen says “forget about the light”, I am reminded of how we not only must forget about the light, we must forget that we have forgotten, for the reaching to be just reaching.