Daido Roshi

Planting Flowers on a Rock

Dharma Discourse by John Daido Loori Roshi
True Dharma Eye, Case 232

 Planting Flowers on a Rock

Featured in Mountain Record 28.1, Fall 2009


 The Main Case

Shitou told the assembly, “Words and actions have nothing to do with the truth.” Yaoshan said, “Going beyond words and actions also has nothing to do with the truth.”
Shitou said, “In this place, even a needle cannot enter.”
Yaoshan said, “In this place, it’s just like planting flowers on a rock.”

The Commentary

Keeping silent and refraining from discussing the Way is a truly extraordinary practice. This is hearing what is impossible to hear, encountering what is impossible to encounter. Yet, even if all contrivances are cut off, there is still the pit of liberation called “dharma attachment.” Even if we try to establish classes or stages, we should understand that fundamentally there are no boundaries or edges to be found. Yaoshan understands that the ineffable truth that Shitou is pointing to is not to be discerned by conscious cognition of sound and form, nor is it to be found by going beyond sound and form. This being the case, you tell me, where is it to be found? If you wish to understand these great adepts, you must first see into the place where “even a needle cannot enter” and then realize the place that’s “just like planting flowers on a rock.” Without relying on seeing and hearing, and without trying to know objects, we should observe and realize that which is underneath it all.

The Capping Verse

Cease from following after sound and form,
     refrain from going beyond sound and form.
The spring breeze unknowingly rousts out the hibernating tree frogs—
     cherry blossoms, wordlessly, open a path.


One day, Yaoshan was sitting on a rock when Shitou asked him, “What are you doing here?” and Yaoshan said, “I’m not doing a thing.” Shitou said, “Then you’re just sitting leisurely.” Yaoshan responded, “If I was sitting leisurely, I’d be doing something.” “You say you’re not doing anything, what is it that you’re not doing?” Shitou insisted. Yaoshan said, “A thousand sages don’t know.” Shitou then praised Yaoshan with a verse:

Long abiding together,
Not knowing its name.
Just going on practicing like this.
Since ancient times, the sages don’t know.
Will searching everywhere now make it known?