“Shitou’s Grass Hut” an essay by Wilbur Mushin May Sensei


photo by Doshin

photo by Doshin


“I’ve built a grass hut, where there is nothing of value. After eating, I relax and enjoy a nap. When it was completed, fresh weeds appeared. Now it’s been lived in – covered by weeds.”

In the world of strife, great value is attached to things. There is no rest, let alone a nap after eating. Singling out things, we fall into the weeds. Realizing there is no intrinsic value in things, we enter Shitou’s hut of simplicity and ease.

Now, the Genjokoan tells us: flowers fall amidst our longings, weeds spring up despite our avoidances. True reality is all-inclusive – all is contained – flowers as well as weeds, all existing side by side. Being one, all is one (Suzuki). With our longings and avoidances a split is created – the dual world – based upon how our mind puts value/meaning on things that are fundamentally empty. Within this world of likes and dislikes we do not perceive the myriad dharmas as they really are.

We cannot prevent our mind from creating our world as it does, but it is possible to realize that the world of our creation does not reflect true reality. Samadhi opens the gate of deep insight and puts us into the space of true reality.

“When the hut was completed, fresh weeds appeared,” Shitou continues. Since weeds are stronger than we are, we can never get rid of them all, and this sometimes makes us angry or sad, just as working with our delusions can make us frustrated or hopeless.

“Now it’s been lived in – covered by weeds,” Shitou writes. Here we can see that a feeling of harmony and yielding pervades, accepting things as they are without labeling, judging, and “weeding out”. Not avoiding delusions, not seeking truth,but seeing delusions for what they are: flowers are flowers, weeds are weeds.

Even so weeds are growing, just this! Shitou’s mind is clear, his cottage tranquil.