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Buddhadharma : Fall 2015
56 buDDhaDharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 1 5 Case 31 Zhaozhou Tests the Old Granny The Case A monk asked an old granny, “Which way is the road to Mount Wutai?” The old granny replied, “Straight ahead!” When the monk took a few steps in that direction, the old granny remarked, “Yet another fine monk goes off like that!” Later, the monk brought this up to Zhaozhou, who said, “Wait till I go and check out this old granny for you.” The next day Zhaozhou went to the old granny and asked the exact same question. Her answer was the same as before. When Zhaozhou returned, he gathered his congregation and said, “I’ve seen through the old granny of Mount Wutai for you all.” Wumen’s Comment The old granny only knew how to sit within her headquarters tent and launch her stratagem to catch the thieves. She did not know that old man Zhaozhou was good at creeping into her tent and menacing her fortress. Furthermore, he did not have the outward marks of a great man. Examining them, both had transgressed. But tell me, where did Zhaozhou see through this old granny? The Verse The questions were the same, And so were the answers. In the cooked rice, there is sand; In the mud, there are thorns. The Path to Where You Are The path to awakening can seem long and arduous, and sometimes you may feel you’ve lost your way. But the destination, says guo gu, is always just beneath your feet. (Opposite) Landscape (detail) by Fan Song, 1872–1922 Ink on paper, China Z haozhou, pulling tricks out of his sleeve—when will he stop? Wumen is extremely kind in creating a huatou out of this gong’an [Japanese, koan]: Where did Zhaozhou see through this old granny? Allow me to add to Wumen’s words: Not only did Zhaozhou see through this old granny, she also saw right through Zhaozhou, through and through. What is it they saw? The old granny runs a tea shop at the base of Mount Wutai in northeastern China. This word “granny,” or po, refers to an old woman but also suggests a person of wit and resource- fulness, usually someone marginal and ambiguous in social status, one who crosses social (OPPOSITE)arthurm.sacklergallery,smithsonianinstitution,Washington,D.c.:giftofDr.anDmrs.stantonp.nolan,s2000.89