THE LAUGHING BONE‎ > ‎WORD‎ > ‎PROSE‎ > ‎

I Asked God A Question



[ source ]


Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said: "The flag is moving."

The other said: "The wind is moving."

The sixth patriarch happened to be passing by. He told them: "Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving."

Mumon's Comment: The sixth patriarch said: "The wind is not moving, the flag is not moving. Mind is moving." What did he mean? If you understand this intimately, you will see the two monks there trying to buy iron and gaining gold. The sixth patriarch could not bear to see those two dull heads, so he made such a bargain.

Wind, flag, mind moves.
The same understanding.
When the mouth opens
All are wrong.

The Gateless Gate 

Looking down through the pool of my mind, I can see the Source deep below, wavering distortions in the water, trembling of rock. The surface of my mind is calm, still, reflective in those places where the light shines upon it. Here, in the shadows of my self, I can see to the bottom, through the substance of my mind, this water, down to the source, the in-rushing stream of the essence that fulfills my being. Then, the flashing movement of a minnow, catching the light, vanishing.

This minnow...  I feel like the man who dreams a room of butterflies and jumps up, waking,  hearing them all fluttering away, turns on the light to nothing, shakes his head, forgets the dream, asks himself, what was that fluttering? I must have been dreaming, turns over, falls back to sleep. Echoes of the Chinese Philosopher, Chaung Tzu:

The great Taoist master Chuang Tzu once dreamt that he was a butterfly fluttering here and there. In the dream he had no awareness of his individuality as a person. He was only a butterfly. Suddenly, he awoke and found himself laying there, a person once again. But then he thought to himself, "Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?"


[ source ]


A room full of butterflies, a pond full of minnows. A moment ago, everything was clear.  Writing about the Source, the transparency of the mind, a still pool of water, when the minnow swam into my view. Distracting thoughts like minnows, bit and pieces of ideas, food for larger fish. The point is to not lose sight of the Source. One minnow, then another, swim into view. A school of happy minnows. I think: why not watch them?

One day Chuang Tzu and a friend were walking by a river. "Look at the fish swimming about," said Chuang Tzu, "They are really enjoying themselves."

"You are not a fish," replied the friend, "So you can't truly know that they are enjoying themselves."

"You are not me," said Chuang Tzu. "So how do you know that I do not know that the fish are enjoying themselves?"

Games with minnows, butterflies, words. What can be known, unknown? Still, there was something that I was supposed to be doing here...


I asked God a question. Before he answered, he asked me if I would bring him some water. I am looking down into a pool full of minnows, butterflies cover my body.

What was it that I asked God? I am thinking about how I can bring this water back to God. There are so many minnows that there is not really any water in the pond at all, just a hole full of flopping minnows. So many butterflies on my body that I truly begin to wonder if I am a butterfly.

There was this dream. I wake up but do not open my eyes. I think softly, I must remember this dream. I lay here, stilling my mind, barely even thinking, like a man in a room full of butterflies ready to take flight, my mind moves slowly, gently into waking, the dream before me, a cathedral. I can make out every detail. As quietly as possible, I study the cathedral, trying to memorize every detail. I move closer and am surprised to see the entire cathedral is made of minnows and butterflies. I quickly realize that I forgot to stay away and fell back into the dream.

I open my eyes now. I am fully awake. Turn on the light. Go to my desk. Find paper and pen. Begin to write. Pause for a moment. Think: let your become clear, still, undisturbed, let language go, think without words, pure....

I am reminded of a koan from the Gateless Gate, the one about the two monks arguing over a flag waving in the wind...



2/18/10