Man Gong and the Rock

The following story was told by Zen Master Su Bong during the 1984 Winter Kyol Che at Providence Zen Center.

There's a kong-an about Zen Master Man Gong Sunim (the grandteacher of Soen Sa Nim) and his Dharma brother, Zen Master Hae Am Sunim. One day they went to the top of O Dae Mountain to offer a prayer at a small shrine for someone who had died. On the way down, Hae Am Sunim decided he would accompany Man Gong Sunim as far as the trail head gate. It was the only path and it was very narrow, so they had to walk single file.

Man Gong Sunim, who was ahead of him, picked up a stone. He turned around and threw it in front of Hae Am Sunim. Chuck! It landed right in front of Hae Am Sunim. Then Hae Am Sunim picked up the stone and threw it down into the creek next to the trail. Man Gong Sunim looked at him and said, "All this for the sake of nothing." Later he wrote the comment, "If you expect something big and wonderful, you also get big disappointment."

So what does this mean? What is the truth? The Compass of Zen says, "It is already apparent in all things." That means, we don't have to make anything. In Buddhism one of the first insights is "insight into impermanence." Maybe that's when your practicing begins, when you realize nothing is permanent. Then why are we here? What will we do?