In One Awakening, a Thousand

Dharma Talk by Geoffrey Shugen Arnold, Sensei
Book of Serenity, Case 84
Juzhi's One Finger

Featured in Mountain Record 24.4, Summer 2006

The Pointer

A thousand awakenings at one hearing, at one understanding a thousand follow. The highest people comprehend all with one determination; the middling and lesser hear much but disbelieve much. Let’s try and bring out the direct, simple point.


The Main Case

Whenever Master Juzhi was asked a question he would just raise one finger.


Hongzhi's Verse

Old Juzhi’s finger-tip Chan—
Thirty years he used it without wearing it out.
Truly he has the unconventional technique of a person of the Way—
Ultimately there are no mundane things before his eyes to see.
His realization most simple,
The device, the more broad.
An ocean of billions of worlds is drunk in the tip of a hair:
Fish and dragons limitless—into whose hands do they fall?
Take care, Mr. Ren, holding the fishing pole!

This koan, which appears in three of the most significant koan collections in the Zen tradition, reminds me of the family retreats we do once a year. In them, we practice together with parents and children, and the weekend’s activities revolve around a particular theme. In the past our retreats have included wilderness training, body practice, the arts, and storytelling.

Traditionally, Zen practitioners have been predominantly male and female monastics. While there have always been lay-practitioners who sat zazen and were committed to self-realization, the more typical practice for them was that of dana, supporting the monastics through donations and work. In the course of Buddhism’s coming to the West, that has changed dramatically and profoundly—where the number of people living in training centers and monasteries as monastics is very small relative to the number of lay practitioners. This is one of the revolutions that the dharma has undergone in coming to the West, and it has precipitated the need to investigate different ways of practicing.