“An awakening experience is like water being poured into water, like gold being traded for gold” – Yuanwu

As part of ramping up to our June retreat I am continuing to stay with Yuanwu, the compiler of the Blue Cliff Record, which we will be looking into during the retreat. This quote from Yuanwu about awakening being like water poured into water, or gold being traded for gold reminds me of another quote from Yuanwu that we took up in an earlier gathering, about letting things be and being in the realm of awakening at the same time we are in the realm of delusion.

It is interesting to hold this quote from Yuanwu together with a central feature of the PZI community, that of being a culture of transformation. Water being poured into water doesn’t sound like a transformation. The transformation that is talked about in alchemical works involves changing something of no value into something of great value through heat being introduced into the crucible of transformation. Yuanwu doesn’t seem to be much into that heat, as he speaks about the transformation being as easy as pouring water into water, no heat necessary. I suppose in the case of the presence of heat Yuanwu would say, “Just let it be”, which is reminiscent of Dongshan saying, “Let the heat kill you”. The transformation of pouring water into water is realizing that the water is of great value from the beginning. The transformation of awakening is realizing that we are of great value from the beginning.

In the PZI community we are exploring a variety of methods of transformation. Some involve heat and some don’t. Some people have the experience of day two or day three of a retreat being predictably difficult, some people don’t. There is no correlation between difficulty and awakening, it can be as easy as reaching for a pillow in the middle of the night, or stubbing your toe.


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