Daido Roshi

Subtle Manifestations of the Truth

Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori Roshi
True Dharma Eye Case 44

Guishan's “I Have Already Exhausted Myself for You”

Featured in Mountain Record 27.3, Spring 2009


 The Main Case

Guishan sat on the teaching seat. A monastic came up and said, “Master, please expound the dharma for the assembly.”

Guishan said, “I have already exhausted myself for you.”

The monastic bowed.

The Commentary

This monastic asks Guishan to expound the dharma. Guishan says, “I have already exhausted myself for you.” What is his meaning?

If you wish to understand Guishan, you must first realize that expounding the dharma is not necessarily limited to expression in words, nor does wordlessness imply lack of expression. Haven’t you heard Master Zhaozhou saying, “If you spend a lifetime not leaving the monastery, sitting in stillness without speaking for ten years or for five years, no one can call you mute. You might be beyond even the buddhas”? Therefore, a lifetime without leaving the monastery is a lifetime of expounding the dharma. Sitting in stillness without speaking for five or ten years is expounding the dharma for five or ten years. Tell me then, what is the dharma that Guishan has expounded for the monastic?

What Guishan is imparting does not enter through the gate. It is a truth that does not reside in words, sounds, gestures or silence. It does not spring from the realm of intent. In intent the mind moves and there is communication. In the teaching of the essential matter no communication whatsoever takes place.

When I examine this matter closely, it seems that it’s not so much that Guishan has used up all his provisions, as it is that he never had any to begin with. The monastic bows. Does he get it? Do you get it? If so, say a word.

The Capping Verse

Deaf, mute, and blind—
   already illuminating before it is said.
Manifesting the body as preaching,
   saving all sentient beings.


I picked this koan because this is the way I feel—I have already exhausted myself for you. I’ve been teaching for close to thirty years, and I sometimes feel that I’ve said all there is to say. Yet even when I’m tired, if somebody asks for the teachings, I can’t say no. I have to respond. That’s how teachers exhaust themselves.