“Someone comes to the Zen centre smoking a cigarette. He blows smoke in the Buddha’s face and drops ashes on the Buddha’s head.”

If you’re standing there what can you do?

The abbot comes running in. “You are crazy! Why are you dropping ashes on the Buddha?

But the man points to the board with Chinese characters hanging on the wall and says, “It’s written right here. ‘Buddha’s body is the whole universe.’ Everything is Buddha. Where could I possibly throw away my ashes? Also these ashes have Buddha-Nature. Everything has Buddha-Nature. How could I ever throw them away and have them not land on the Buddha?

So somebody comes to the Zen Center, blows smoke in the Buddha statues face, and drops ashes on its head. He does not understand truth. He does not understand the real nature of his present situation, or his correct relationship to that situation and therefore he doesn’t understand his correct function in that place, at that time.

How do you teach him? How do you fix his mind?

How do you teach “The sky is blue, Trees are green.” if a person is only attached to emptiness? If a person is only attached to universal substance? How do you teach them, “Buddha is gold. Ashes are gray. Sky’s blue, Trees are green.” how do you teach them?

Attaining that point (Hits the table) is not enough.

There’s one more step.

One more step means correct situation, correct function, correct relationship.

When you attain that point (Hits table) – when you see, when you hear, when you smell – everything is truth, “Sky’s blue, Trees are green. Sugar is sweet.” Everything is truth.


How truth correctly functions makes my correct life.

This means that when hungry people come you give them food. Thirsty people come you give them a drink. When suffering people come you help them.

The name for that is the Bodhisattva Way.

Adapted from The Compass of Zen and a video lecture of Master Seung Sahn