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Buddhadharma : Winter 2008
you did not feel was a stranger at all, or find yourself walk- ing through a place that was somehow very familiar? Your friends may explain it to you using the theory of reincarnation or else they may pull you into the concoctions of astrology. As long as you hold your individuality tightly and cling to an ego-entity, you can please your friends by listening to their nonsense, but once you smell even a whiff of Zen, you cannot help but laugh at your friends’ ignorance. Suppose you and I were business partners in a past incar- nation, and I owed you some amount of money; you cannot collect even a cent from me, from this penniless monk. Sup- pose your stars indicate that you have a tendency to argue; if you make any noise and disturb others in the zendo, astrol- ogy or no astrology, I have to put you out. The stars are not forming your character now. Your own thoughts and actions are forming it. Even if you were a queen of Africa in your past incarnation, you cannot go back to being one now. So what is the use of worrying about meeting somebody from a former time or visiting some former place in person? In fact, no such animal to be called a person exists here. You feel familiar because you are one with that other person. You remember the place because you are in the place connected with all other places. You are on the verge of awakening to oneness; only your dualistic ideas prevent you. You and I have met each other many millions of years ago. Now, tell me where we have met! If you pass this koan, you will also pass the fourth koan in The Gateless Gate, “A Beardless Foreigner.” Mumon said, “If you say you have met him, you have never seen him at all.” He really said a mouthful. MuMon’s Verse One should not discuss a dream In front of a fool. Why does Bodhidharma have no beard? What an absurd question! We are barbarians, and ought to be satisfied just to smile at each other. From Eloquent Silence, edited and introduced by Roko Sherry Chayat. Reprinted with permission of Wisdom Publications. © 2008 Zen Studies Society Bodhidharma Nyogen Nowak