Two Monks Roll Up the Blinds
The monks gathered in the hall to hear the great Fayan of Qingliang give a talk before the midday meal. He pointed to the bamboo blinds, and two students went and rolled them up in the same way. Fayan said, “One gains, one loses.”
On Stage and Dancing as Fast as I Can
Gain and loss. I live in it. Someone says to me, “I really like it when…” and I feel like a million bucks. I’ve achieved something, set myself up as better. I might say to myself, “Now, I am at my best, better than the rest.” I gain. But, then, as I turn around, someone next to me says, “you look tired today.” I think, “Oh, it must show.” Now I’ve lost, or could say, I’m lost. Gain and loss, approaching life as if it were some kind of performance with me, the marionette, dancing as fast as I can, striving to gain my life while trying to avoid losing it. To set up that performance, to pursue life in this way is exhausting. And I’m always on stage, everywhere I go: at work, in my relationships, as I exercise swimming laps, believing if I touch the wall before that person in the lane next to me, I’m best.
So, gain -- nothing succeeds like success.. Loss -- no one loves me, I think i’ll eat worms. How to keep such a balance, so at least to come out even.
Fayan is offering something else, a way to cut the strings, to dance free, now, like Pinocchio -- REAL. This koan suggests the possibility of a before gain, a beyond loss. It suggests that maybe there is not anything wrong with right here, nothing the matter with your life as it is.
No One Knows
Fayan points to the blinds. Already you can see that the people attending the teacher are people with active minds. They believe that Fayan is asking them to roll up the blinds. And with great energy they approach the blinds and roll them up -- in exactly the same way. All that good training! Fayan says, “One gains, one loses.” And that’s it. And here you are studying this story many, many years later and you are one of the monks. You don’t know, but Fayan, your teacher has spoken of loss and gain, and he is not saying who. He just isn’t saying. We all know exactly how this feels. This koan takes us right to that place of loss and gain, and if we pause for a moment, we notice, this loss, this gain, it’s up to me. That’s a good step. Now we have an address: 101 Gain and Loss Way, Your Thoughts City. .
Another time Fayan was had the following exchange with a student.
A student asked Fayan, “Reverend, I am Huichao. What is Buddha?”
Fayan replied, “You are Huichao!”
The student is asking Fayan to give him something, something he can hold onto so that he can get to the bottom of what it is to be alive, to be Huichao. He wants an answer through which he can feel validation. He asks his teacher for some eternal truth, perhaps we could say the Ultimate Gain, “What is Buddha?” Fayan replies, “You are Huichao!” Fayan is intimate like that -- without explanation Fayan just shows Huichao something, something Real. “You are Huichao!” I don’t see anything left out here. Sort of looks like Zhaozhou’s oak tree, or Yunmen’s shit stick. It is all right here, in this seamlessness. Yes, you are in it too, but more intimate than that, you are it. You are Huichao!
Nothing to be gained here, nothing lost.
Counting gain and loss is another way we have of knowing, putting it together, making a world and placing ourselves within the world we have created. It is a curious ride, this roller coaster of gain and loss. We measure up or we don’t. Those poor monks! What were they to think of themselves -- am I up or am I down? Poor us, do I measure up, or as a current political candidate might say, “am I a loser?.” The wages of gain and loss? Being cut off and separate from your life -- this generous life that arises unbidden. Where might we look? Well, it is not so far from here, so apart from now. Turn inward, you might even catch a glimpse before any thought of gain or loss -- it rises up in you, is you. So, enough of finding the “real you.” Enough already of checking it out to see how you measure up -- one gains one loses. Enough, what you seek is right here, not in you, but here as you. What is Buddha? Christ? You are insert your name!
If Fayan pointed to the blinds, what would you do?