|photo Adam Monty|
At our recent "Original Face Sesshin" named by our tanto (head seat) Alan Richardson, we took up the story of Hui Neng, who asked Monk Ming, "What is your Original Face?" At the end of the sesshin, our assistant tanto, Adam Monty, mentioned the apocryphal koan "The Goat in the Boat." When Adam returned home, he found the tube of Original Face Wash, pictured here, in his medicine cabinet.
These two karmic occurrences inspired me to search for the elusive goat in the boat koan, and I was lucky enough to find it in our Temple library, in an obscure collection gathered together by Theodore Geisel, the sage of La Jolla. Amazingly, it references not only the goat and the boat, but also the Original Face! And, mysteriously, went I went back to try to find the book again it had vanished into Thin Air. Here is the case, as I remember it, with commentaries by Boundless Way Zen teachers and senior students.
The Goat in the Boat (The One Fish Barrier Collection, Case 42)
Main Case: As the Fifth Ancestor rowed Hui Neng across the river, a goat climbed into the seat between them. The Ancestor asked, "Don't think good; don't think evil. At this very moment, what is the true face of the goat in the boat?" At this moment, he presented a tube of face wash to Hui Neng, saying, "Use this all of your life. It will never be used up."
David Rōshi said, "The student wins the prize - though he has not yet discovered the original face, he has found the face wash for this original face so that when any of us find it, we'll be able to keep it clean!!!"
Bob Sensei said, "I love this! But it’s only for men. Is that because women don’t collect as much dust on their original face?"
Senior Dharma Teacher Alan said, "Have you found your original face yet? Then wash it!"
Practice Leader Adam said, "It can't be described; it can't be praised enough;
It can, however, be washed."