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Someone said, “I have only recently arrived and I am not yet clear about your style of teaching.”
Yunmen replied, “What could I say without your questions?”
This koan about teaching style, reminds me of a koan involving a question asked by a woman Japanese teacher named Mujaku. The response to her question about Zen was, “The heart of the one who asks is Zen; you can’t get it from someone else’s words.” You can’t get it from someone else’s words, but you have to ask none the less.
I met my first koan meditation teacher, Kusan, when I was living in Korea. He said to make my mind a question mark. To this day I find that instruction helpful. I hear echoes of Kusan’s instruction in Mujaku’s teacher’s response and also in Yunmen’s response. Mujaku was told that her questioning was the answer, but that she could not get the answer from others. Yunmen is saying that there needs to be a questioner for the teacher to respond to, as part of the teacher’s practice. Making their mind a question mark, the teacher responds to the questions posed. He didn’t explain it to the questioner, he demonstrated it, his response was a living breathing example.
That is koan practice. I am one of the ones whose words I can’t get it from, but I keep asking the question, letting go of the responses that come from not only outside, but from inside too and keep asking the question. That questioning becomes a mirror that reflects my life back to me and I am better able to see what I am doing that is getting in the way of there being no question at all.