Zen Koan Case of Pa Lings Snow



A monk asked Pa Ling, “What is the school of Kanadeva?”

Pa Ling said, “Piling up snow in a silver bowl.”


Some called the Buddha “Tathagata.” This is an ironic name because Tatha means “Just coming – just going.” However, Tathagata means “One who has arrived!”

Others ask, “Why did Bodhi Dharma come to the West?”

I ask, “When did Bodhi Dharma leave the East?”

In the end, we are all fools.


Buddha taught, “Form is emptiness – emptiness is formed.” Better than teaching with words, Buddha should have carved a likeness of Emperor Wu in an ice block.

Sometimes we call the universe, “The Great Void,” or we say that the universe is empty, not a thing exists. This is more than philosophical – it’s absolutely true!

The manifest universe co-originates everything or co-origination is what makes the universe. Look to nature; any stream is the four seasons, sun, eroding rock, thunder, clouds, rain, frozen nights, hot afternoons, mildew on stone, all that lives and thrives within the stream. Everything, all of this co-originates and is always essentially a stream – ice on the mountain, water below; life and death a stream.

Our world is like a particle-wave; it contains the virtue to become – from the seed to the sapling to the tree. Infinite direction from the simple to the complex and the virtual intelligence that drives it is easy to see when one lives with one’s eyes open. Although, creative activity is dynamic and can only be predicted to a point.

In the end, “What is…” is always the wrong question. Not a thing is, however, everything is! The Great Void is empty of selfness, thingness, yet filled with the intelligent relationship, willful, having direction.

This is all ‘tatha’ because all is always coming and going. Some call this activity ‘karma’. Some call it ‘The Great Chain of Causation’. No wrongdoing – just always doing. Kandeva was the fifteenth patriarch, but today he is dust, a rock. All is dust but with the virtue to become form. All is form, but with the certainty of becoming dust.

The Tathagata was never born, never lived, never died, yet speaking truthfully and clearly, Buddha makes quite an impression.


Pa Ling asked the monk, “What is dust?”

The monk answered, “No dust here. No place for it to land.”

Both men smiled having found their direction. For now, an agreement had been reached.

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