A Zen master investigates traps by falling into them Barry Magid January 7th 2017

In the Gateless Barrier, Case 31, an old woman confronts the pilgrimage of monks with a presentation of immediacy. It's a common Zen trope is to answer to the question of "Where do you think you're going?" and "What do you think you're after?" with some version of "There's nowhere else to go! It's right here" It turns out it's not enough for Zen to respond it's just this. When asked about our aspirations we can have many lofty spiritual sounding reasons for practice. Truth be told, the real reasons we come to practice are a lot less high minded. So before we're too quick to say, "this is it!" we need to take an extra step of psychological honesty. Where do you really think you're going? When Chao-Chou investigates the old woman, he lets himself fall into the same trap and lets her admonish him without a smart comeback. What's going on here?

The Gateless Gate, Case 31 Chao-Chou Investigates the Old Woman

A monk asked an old woman, "What is the way to Mount Tai?"
The old woman said, "Go straight ahead."
When the monk had proceeded a few steps she said, "Good respectable monk, but he too goes off like that."
When Chao-Chou hear about this he said, "Hold on, I'll go investigate that old woman thoroughly for you."
The next day Chao-Chu went and asked her the same question and she replied in the same way.
He returned and announced to the assembly, "I have investigated and seen through that old woman of Mount Tai for you."

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