Daido Roshi

Seeing Through the Eyes of Another

Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori Roshi
Koans of the Way of Reality

Dizang's “Two Fingers”

Featured in Mountain Record 26.2, Winter 2007


 The Main Case

Xiushan, having returned from a pilgrimage, asked Master Dizang, “There’s an unresolved matter that I have, so I’m not willing to go traveling through the mountains and rivers until it’s resolved.”

Dizang said, “It’s not bad that you travel to many mountains and rivers.” But Xiushan didn’t understand Dizang’s meaning.

Dizang then asked, “Are the mountains, rivers and the earth identical or separate from you?”

Xiushan said, “Separate.”

Dizang held up two fingers.

Xiushan hurriedly said, “Identical, identical.”

Dizang again held up two fingers.

For a time, Xiushan was lost in thought and then he said, “I don’t know whether mountains, rivers and the earth are identical or separate from me.”

Dizang said, “What is it you’re calling mountains, rivers, and the earth?”

Xiushan thereupon attained enlightenment.

The Commentary

Xiushan was a member of a party of four adepts on a pilgrimage. Because of a snowstorm they took shelter at Dizang’s temple. Shortly after they departed, Xiushan returned alone, unwilling to travel the mountains and rivers until he had resolved his question. When he expressed this to Dizang, the master said, “It’s not bad that you travel to many mountains and rivers.” Tell me, what was he saying?

Since Xiushan didn’t understand Dizang’s meaning, the old master cut to the quick, asking, “Are the mountains, rivers and the earth identical or separate from you?”

Master Dogen once said, “What different types of beings see is different and we should reflect on this fact. Is it that there are various ways of seeing one object or is it that we have mistaken various images for one object?”

Xiushan said, “Separate.” Dizang held up two fingers. Clearly the old man was trying to show him something. So Xiushan quickly jumped to the other side. “Identical, identical,” he said. Again Dizang held up two fingers. Do you understand? If you do, say a word on behalf of Xiushan. An old man once said, “Communication with the source is one’s own practice. Communication by speech is the ability to show others.”

Xiushan became quiet. He disappeared into the depth of the great doubt and then after a while he said, “I don’t know whether mountains, rivers and the earth are identical or separate from me.” At that moment, Master Xiu Mountain disintegrated and in his place, a student appeared—as did limitless possibilities. Dizang moved quickly, saying, “What is it you’re calling mountains, rivers and the earth?” Xiushan at once attained enlightenment.

But say, what did he realize?

The Capping Verse

The sky covers it, the earth supports it.
    Pervading the universe,
      it’s without boundaries.
Arriving at the mysterious subtlety,
    who distinguishes turning
        inward or turning outward?


This story of Xiushan and Dizang also appears in one of the koans of the Book of Equanimity, though in a slightly different version. It reads: