“That’s why we are here–to make our experience of the world fuller… therefore, to be more at peace… to be able to act not harmfully.”
Description: Case 28: Book of Equanimity: Gokoku’s “Three Disgraces” Part 2 of 2
A monk asked Gokoku, “How about when a crane perches on a withered pine tree?” Gokoku said, “It is a disgrace when seen from the ground.”
The monk asked, “What about when every drop of water is frozen at once?” Gokoku said, “It’s a disgrace after the sun has risen.”
The monk asked, “At the time of the Eshô Persecution1 , where did the good Guardian Deities2 of the Dharma go?” Gokoku said, “It is a disgrace for the two of them on both sides of the temple gate.” .”
Henry continues with his discussion of Gokoku’s Three Disgraces. Henry looks briefly at nihilism and describes how encountering the dharma can be the cure for nihilism. He also describes his recent travels to San Diego, and uses surfing as a dharma metaphor.
Henry then turns to the koan. He describes the images of the crane, the withered tree and the frozen water in the koan as images of awakening. They are images of infinite oneness and spaciousness, here and now, in everything. Henry tells us Gokokus’s baffling but brilliant awakening story, in which Gokoku seeks the answer to the question, “What is the nature of Buddha’s true thusness?” The story describes the frustrating confusion Gokoku faced, which dismantled his ordinary way of understanding and led to his awakening. None of us can get the kind of answer we want, that’s not how the dharma works; conceptual understanding is not possible. The koan’s job is to wake us up out of our imagined understandings. Every koan is the true nature of Buddha’s thusness.