Alive or Dead? I Won’t Say, I Won’t Say


On October 12, Abbot Gyokuko Carlson took on a Zen koan that goes like this:

Dogo and Zen-gen went to a house to show sympathy. Zen-gen hit the coffin and asked, “Alive or dead?” Dogo replied, “I won’t say alive, I won’t say dead.” Zen-gen demanded, “Why won’t you say?” Dogo repeated, “I won’t say.”

Later after Dogo died, Zen-gen went to Seki-so and told him the foregoing story. Seki-so said, “I won’t say alive, and I won’t say dead.” Zen-gen said, ” Why won’t you say?” Seki-so repeated, “I won’t say, I won’t say.” At these words Zen-gen came to awakening.

Gyokuko also offered suggestions and possible chants and practices that people might be able to do on their own to help through this time of transition and grief.L

Here’s the Mettabhavana for Dharma Rain that she re-wrote and that we chanted together at the end of the talk.

We settle gently into a place of peace and trust that the gentle guidance of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and ancestors will guide us through whatever changes come our way. We extend that hope to all people and forms of life, seeking to surround all with Infinite Love and Compassion. We send out compassionate thoughts to those in suffering or sorrow, to all those in doubt and ignorance, to all who are striving to attain Truth, and to all those whose feet are standing close to the great change we call death, we send forth oceans of Wisdom, Mercy and Love. Particular to all those in our community, near and known to us or far and invisible, who are in sorrow, grief, or fear, we offer our tender hearts, the salt of our own tears, the warmth of our smiles, the support of our patient presence. May we all be at peace, may we all be kind, may we all be free from fear.

Gyokuko Carlson