Sometimes, koans are so simple that they seem impossible to understand.


 A monk asked Joshu, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming to China?”

Joshu said, “The oak tree in the garden.”


I found this explication of those lines by Karen Maezen Miller in the March 2010 issue of the Shambhala Sun. Karen Maezen Miller is a priest at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles and the author of Momma Zen and Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life.


Joshu tells us to open our eyes and awaken in our own backyard.

Once again, Sekida prunes the intellectual interpretation that can obscure our clear sight. “There were many giant oaks in the garden of Joshu’s temple. We can well imagine that Joshu himself was personally familiar with every tree, stone, flower, weed, and clump of moss—as intimately acquainted as if they were his own relatives.”

Where is the place you know as well as your own family? Indeed, that is as proximate as yourself? It is the place where where you are at ease with a full load, fulfilled by an empty sink, telling time by the leaves and weeds: making yourself mindfully at home in the home you never leave.