It is the night of the new moon – dark, dark. Camping with friends deep in the forest, we sit around a fire and tell stories deep Into the night, feeding the flames, passing the jug, spinning our yarns. As the evening moves deep into night it is time to retire to tents for sleep. I turn away from the fire to walk into the thick black ink of night. Testing the dark, I hold my hand in front of my face. Nothing. Slowly, I make my way as my eyes adjust, opening to what is before me: the stars, the bioluminescent fungus. The dark has its own light.
Yunmen is a master of knowing where, and when to tap. One feature of his teaching style is to apply one word at precisely the right time. To one question he says, “Barrier!” When asked another he calls out, “sesame rice cake.” With his one word hearts open and worlds come together. In this koan he taps not with a single word, but with a phrase when he says “Say it upside down!”