A monk asked Joshu, “All dharmas are reduced to oneness, but what is oneness reduced to?”
Joshu replied, “When I was in Seishu I made a hempen shirt. It weighed seven pounds.”

Joshu gave that response more than a thousand years ago, but seekers are still trying to find a way out of the shirt.

That monk was seeking wisdom the same way most of us do.  We ask questions, read, watch.  We are used to intellectual inquiry.

As with most koans, we find it confusing that a hempen shirt can be an answer to a concept as large as oneness.

Is it that he made it? That he wore it? That it was made of hemp cloth? That it weighed seven pounds?

Perhaps, because he made it, that alters the experience of wearing it. So, perhaps it comments on how we experience things?  The meal you make versus the one you buy. The tomato you grow versus the one at the store. The poem you write compared to the one by another that you read.


But then what about this reducing everything down to one?

Is this Buddhist concept related to Einstein and others in science and the search for a theory of everything?

I’m sorry if my series of posts on the koans are more questions than answers, but that is the way it goes.

I did find some thoughts on this koan by Karen Maezen Miller posted on ShambhalaSun.com that might help you.

Karen 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.

Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood