The Old Woman Steals Zhaoshou’s Bamboo Shoots

One day Master Zhaozhou was outside the monastery and an old woman came along carrying an empty basket. He asked her: “Where are you going?” We all run around with that empty basket wanting this, wanting that. Expecting demanding: food, knowledge, love etc. Zhaozhou is asking, where are you going? A poignant question for all of us. She is desperate: If I can’t get it, I have to seal it. Life owes me something, even if I have to steal it… Cheating the wife, cheating the government. But nothing gives satisfaction: the basket is still empty. Seeking, seeking. There is nothing outside that satisfies; it’s a phantom! The basket is still empty. The old woman is still clamoring for something, which cannot be had but only lived. After all failed her outcry for wisdom, Zhaoshou’s bamboo shoot, even if she has to steal them. She is desperate now and ready to go to the Source, where life is sprouting and wisdom is abundant, Zhaoshou’s bamboo shoot of which he is the treasure house. And Zhaoshou stops her in her tracks, asking: “What will you do if you run into Zhaoshou? Damn/slam! She slaps him. She comes face to face with the truth seeking what’s outside a phantom, empty. Until we come face to face with the truth: he is real, I am also real. What else is there to question, to seek? Coming back to your own integrity, the boundless self that contains everything, IS everything.

In gassho, Wilbur Mushin May

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