“What does it mean to ‘Hide your body in the Big Dipper’?”

”Seeing the face is better than hearing the name, Hearing the name is better than seeing the face.'”

I brought this koan about hiding our body in the Big Dipper on Sunday and will bring it back on Wednesday, with a friend. This happens as you hang out with koans, they start paying visits to each other and having conversations, sometimes I’m included in their conversation, sometimes I’m not. The ‘hearing vs seeing’ koan came along soon after meeting the Big Dipper koan. It was there on Sunday and has continued to have a conversation with the Big Dipper and I since.

Xuedou is often credited with helping bring Zen out of a philosophical phase into a more literary phase. His poetic images are much appreciated, but when he says “Seeing it once is better than hearing about it a thousand times.” That sounds experiential to me, not literary. It sounds like he’s from Missouri, the “show me” state.

Rather than just hearing about awakening, Xuedou is encouraging us to see it, feel it, taste it. How do you do that? The answer is neither philosophical nor literary. The answer is our life. Our hunger cannot be satisfied with a picture of a rice cake. Our yearning for clarity cannot be satisfied with stories of others attainment.

However, we are also told, ‘hearing the name is better than seeing the face.’ Seeing the face, our original face, facing the vastness, can help us include the cries of the world. When it comes to doing something about those cries, it’s good to know the names of those things that we can do.

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