‘The Way integrates with the body and from this unstuck place, the valley spirit echoes the sounds of the world and the wind god walks in the sky’ – Hongzhi

Our next long retreat in October, is going to focus on a collection of 100 koans named Book of Serenity. So far, more than any of the individual koans, my attention has gone to the influential Chan teacher of the 11th century, Hongzhi, who is responsible for the text.

For the last eight months I have been spending time with Taoism in preparation for our last two long retreats in which we  focused on Laozi and Zhuangzi, respectively. Perhaps, because of that, I was particularly interested to find this quote from Hongzhi evoking the Valley Spirit and Wind God, both members of the Taoist pantheon.

Much of the writings attributed to Laozi predates the beginning of Chinese culture. It originates from an oral tradition that goes back to the culture’s earliest roots. As such, Taoism gives paramount importance to the Earth’s mysterious generative force, a Great Mother, represented in Taoism as the Valley Spirit. The wind god, is named Feng Po Po, Madame Wind. She carries a full sack of wind in her arms while riding on the back of a tiger. On calm days her generous spirit cools the earth with gentle breezes, but when upset, she unleashes violent storms.
However, it was the part of Hongzhi’s statement about the way integrating with the body that caught my attention the most. It is that integration with the body that I recognize as an essential element of koan meditation practice. It is that integration that allows us to experience the freedom to be unstuck and to hear the echo of the sounds of the Valley Spirit and to experience the freedom of walking in the sky with Feng po-po.


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