The Open Hand

 A teacher asked a pilgrim, “Where have you come from?”
“From Dongshan’s,” replied the pilgrim.
“What does Dongshan teach?”
“He usually teaches in three ways.”
“What are they?”
“The dark way, the bird path, and the open hand.”     

Where Have You Come From?

Sometimes I come out of my fear, the projection of my “self” into an imagined future of dire consequence. At other times I arise from my desire to please others, seeking approval. As long as others like me I must be ok. The other day it was shame, guilt, a diminishment of the present moment, of my life as it is — This “I” I think I am could be better. And there are other identifications along life’s path: pride, jealousy, resentment, you probably know the drill and have your own particular location. Where are you coming from?

But sometimes, like Bodhidharma coming from the west, devoid of first principle, absent the Holy, I proceed from the dark vastness, not knowing who I am or where I am going. I am just now here.

The Open Hand

Now here hands are open, mine and everything around me. The world unfolds giving and I receive — the kindness of a friend, her smile a gift on a rainy day; the way the dog nudges against me, asking me to rub her ears; the phone rings, a friend calls; the sun as it rises – the horizon aflame; the trail rising to meet me as I walk the property; the Blue Heron rising from the pond, squawking as she flies. The hand that freely gives is the hand that receives. The hand that receives and declines to hold is already the hand that gives. Dongshan teaches this open hand. Good thing too. How could one teach anything else?

We will take up Dongshan’s Open Hand using the koan, “Guanyin’s Hands and Eyes,” from the Blue Cliff Record.

Yunyan asked Daowu, ‘How does the Bodhisattva Guanyin use those many hands and eyes?’
Daowu answered, ‘It is like someone in the middle of the night reaching behind her head for the pillow.’ _
Yunyan said, ‘I understand.’ Daowu asked,
‘How do you understand it?’
Yunyan said, ‘All over the body are hands and eyes.’
Daowu said, ‘That is very well expressed, but it is only eight-tenths of the answer.’ Yunyan said, ‘How would you say it, Elder Brother?’
Daowu said, ‘Throughout the body are hands and eyes._’