zenseungsahn02You say you looked in the mirror and said, “Who’s that?” I ask you: the mirror face and your face—which is the correct face? Are they the same or different?

If you said, “Same,” I would hit your face. You would say, “Ouch!” but the mirror face does not feel anything. If you said, “Different,” I would tell you that, before you were born, your face was empty; after you die, your face will be empty; so your face is empty. The reflected face is also empty, so the mirror face and your face are the same.

So I ask you one more time, are they same or different? If you say “Same,” you do not understand your original face. Also, if you say “Different,” you do not understand your original face. What is your original face?

Long ago, an eminent teacher said, “Don’t think good and bad. At that time, what is your original face?: This is a famous kong-an (koan). Don’t make anything; then you will get your original face and get everything. If you don’t understand your face, only go straight—don’t know.

 

From Only Don’t Know: The Teaching Letters of Zen Master Seung Sahn, © 1982 by Providence Zen Center. Reprinted with permission of Primary Point Press.

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