Koan #18

Banish existence and
you fall into existence;
Follow emptiness and
you turn your back on it.

In the Sung dynasty there was a famous prime minister by the name of Chang Shang-Yin who was opposed to Buddhism. He wrote many essays purporting to refute Buddhism, and he would spend every evening pondering over how he could improve the essay he was then working on.

His wife, observing his obsessive involvement and struggle with his writing, asked him, “What are you doing?”

He said, “Buddhism is really hateful. I’m trying to prove there is no Buddha.”

His wife remarked, “How strange! If you say there is no Buddha, why bother to refute the Buddha? It is as if you are throwing punches into empty space.”

This comment turned his mind around. He reflected: There may be something to Buddhism after all.

Thus if you try to destroy something, you are still bound up by it. For instance, suppose you try to clear a blocked pipe by pushing another object into it. Whatever was originally in the pipe is pushed out, but the new object is now blocking the pipe. When you try to use existence to get rid of existence, you will always end up with existence.

When you throw something away, it is gone. But does it cease to exist?