How to save the cat


Correct situation, correct relationship, correct function.

A dharma teacher speaks about this, but I still can’t understand it. I’m not there yet.

In The Compass of Zen, Zen Master Seung Sahn wrote about this in “The Ninth Gate,” pages 382-387. First he retold the story of Nam Cheon and the cat. It’s a koan, and I don’t know the answer. I don’t like it, because the cat dies in the story. (Also, I’m working on another koan, and probably I shouldn’t be confusing myself with two koans at once.)

Correct situation, correct relationship, correct function. This is when thought and action become one, like releasing the arrow in kyudo practice. You see and you know and you act.

I am so far away from this. That’s okay — it’s not a problem.



4 responses

  1. Here is the Koan:

    ㄤ. Nánquán Kills a Cat

    Once the monks of the Eastern and Western halls were disputing about a cat. Master Nánquán , holding up the cat said, “You! Give me one word and I will save this cat. If you cannot, I will kill it.” No one could answer. Finally, Nánquán killed the cat. In the evening when Zhàozhōu returned from outside, Nánquán told him of the incident. Zhàozhōu took off his shoe, put it on his head, and walked away. Nánquán said, “If you had been there, I could have saved the cat.”

    1. Nánquán said, “Give me one word.” At that time, what can you do?

    2. Zhàozhōu put his shoe on his head. What does this mean?

    Wúmén’s Comment
    Tell me, what did Zhàozhōu mean when he put the sandal on his head? If you can give a turning word on this, you will see that Nánquán’s decree was carried out with good reason. If not, “Danger!”

    Wúmén’s Verse

    if Zhàozhōu had been there,
    turning the world order upside–down;
    snatching away the knife,
    leaving Nánquán begging for his life.

    Dochong’s Comment:
    Chan Master Nánquán makes a huge mistake here, but you must save him prior to the mistake and you find the answer here. He was depending on his students to help him but alas they all failed and he broke one of the major precepts. Zhàozhōu was away at the time and had he been there all of this wouldn’t have happened, yet his response was only directed to the tragedy and not the prevention. You must save Nánquán and in the process save yourself simultaneously.

    Paul Lynch, JDPSN