Isan asked Kyôzan, “Suppose a man asks you, saying, ‘All living beings are tossed in a vast karma-consciousness; does this karma consciousness have any origin from which it arises?’ How would you check him?”
Kyôzan said, “If such a person appears, I call out to him, ‘Mr. So-and-so!’ When he turns his head, instantly I say, ‘What is this?’ If he hesitates, then I say to him, ‘Not only is there a vast karma-consciousness, but also there is no origin from which it arises.”
Isan said, “Good.”
Description: Henry asks, what is the central kernel of this koan? It can be boiled down to this simple core question: What is this? When Buddha asked this basic question at the beginning of his quest, the answer he eventually found relieved him of all suffering and propelled him into helping all beings find relief from their suffering. Buddha frequently said, I teach only one thing; suffering and its cause. The most acute suffering that we experience, we generate ourselves. Certainly painful things happen, but if we are willing to investigate, we can understand their causes and greatly reduce our part in our suffering. Koans are designed to open our hearts and minds to see, what is this? In koans, we are the central character who undergoes a transformation.