A travelling monk asked an old woman the road to Taizan, a popular
temple supposed to give wisdom to the one who worships there. The
old woman said: `Go straight ahead.' When the monk proceeded a few
steps, she said to herself: `He also is a common church-goer.'
Someone told this incident to Joshu, who said: `Wait until I
investigate.' The next day he went and asked the same question,
and the old woman gave the same answer.
Joshu remarked: `I have investigated that old woman.'
Mumon's Comment: The old woman understood how war is planned, but she did not know
how spies sneak in behind her tent. Old Joshu played the spy's
work and turned the tables on her, but he was not an able general.
Both had their faults. Now I want to ask you: What was the point
of Joshu's investigating the old woman?
When the question is common
The answer is also common.
When the question is sand in a bowl of boiled rice
The answer is a stick in the soft mud.
A Zen koan from the classic collection The Gateless Gate.
Original transcription by Ben Walter and Adam Fuller of iBiblio.