The True Way
One morning, during Yong Maeng Jong Jin at the Providence Zen Center, a student
walked into the interview room and bowed to Seung Sahn Soen-sa.
Soen-sa said, “What is the true way?”
The student shouted “KATZAAHH !!!”
Soen-sa said, “That answer is neither good nor bad. It has cut off all thinking, so there is
no speech, no Buddha, no mind, no way. Tell me then: what is the true way?”
The student said, “The sky is blue.”
Soen-sa said, “That’s true enough, but it is not the way.” Then, holding up his Zen stick,
“What color is this?”
“Yes. When I ask you what color is the stick, you don’t answer, “The bell is yellow,”
even though that’s perfectly true. It would be scratching your left foot when your right
one itches. It’s the same when I ask you what is the true way and you answer, “The sky
“Go ask a child about the true way. A child will give you a good answer. Zen mind is
children’s mind. Children have no past or future, they are always living in the truth,
which is just like this. When they are hungry, they eat; when they are tired, they rest.
Children understand everything. So let me ask you again: what is the true way?”
The student stood up and bowed.
Soen-sa said, “This is the Great Way, the Buddha Way, the Tao. It is not the true way.
Do you hear the sounds outside the window?”
“What are they?”
“Where are these cars driving?”
“What is the name over there?”
The student was confused and said nothing.
Soen-sa said, “It is Route 95. That is the true way. Hope Street is the true way. Doyle
Avenue is the true way. The way is only the way. There is nothing beyond.”
The student bowed and said, “I understand. Thank you.”
Soen-sa said, “You’re welcome. Now what is the true way?”
The student said, “Route 95 goes from Providence to Boston.”
Soen-sa closed his eyes.
After he had returned to Cambridge, the student went up to two children – a six year old
girl and a four year old boy – who were playing in the driveway by the Cambridge Zen
Center. He asked the girl, “What is the true way?”
The girl pointed down the street towards Main.
He then asked the boy, “What is the true way?”
The boy gave him a fierce look, turned around, and walked away.
LOL! Life is a perfect circle. We are all born Zen, acquire logical mind and grow out of
Zen, only to mature and realize we are already/ always were “Ahh, this.”
Just look: every grandmother sees the wisdom of children, so fresh and innocent.
What is your true way?