Koan: A student asked Jingqing, “I am pecking from inside the shell. Please peck from outside.” Jingqing said, “I will, but will you survive?” The student said, “If I did not survive, people would laugh.” Jingqing said, “You really are in the weeds!” 

The process of gestating a spiritual embryo is an image used by a woman to describe her journey to awakening. It began in a deep, dark and solitary place. That darkness might be the darkness of not knowing, or knowing, but not understanding why knowing doesn’t help.

It might be the darkness of feeling alone and destitute.

However the darkness might manifest, in the process of giving birth to the embryo we are stripped bare even of that darkness. We are stripped of the protective shell which separates us from ourselves and the world around us.

Being stripped bare” implies that there is someone doing the stripping. In the case of this koan, the stripping happens by pecking, and that pecking happens from the inside, by the student and from the outside, by the teacher until there is no inside and outside. No student and no teacher.

When the shell is gone, we meet our ancestor face to face and it is none other than our own face before us. There is celebratory laughter in the ‘reunion’, lost in the weeds together.


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