On the Hundred Grass Tips

An old friend offered up this little story about the remarkable Zen master, Layman P’ang, his equally awake wife, and their equally wakeful daughter (in Ruth Fuller Sasaki’s translation), each describing the same moment.

Layman P’ang ‘was sitting in his thatched cottage one day. “Difficult, difficult, difficult,” he suddenly exclaimed, “like trying to scatter ten measures of sesame seed all over a tree!”

“Easy, easy, easy,” returned Mrs P’ang, “just like touching your feet to the ground when you get out of bed.”

“Neither difficult nor easy.” said (their daughter) Ling Zhao.”On the hundred grass-tips, The Ancestors’ meaning.”

So, what’s this got to do with our situation? Yours? Mine? With real difficulties, sometimes terrible harsh difficulties.



Neither difficult nor easy

Each word precious

Each a pointing

I think about those grass tips, each manifesting the Buddha way,


Or, maybe within the magic beyond words

Lovely, foolish words,

So close,

So far…

each a Buddha…

  • Daniel Kaplan

    old friend, indeed. I love the play of this family. That’s one thing I notice and appreciate. Right now, ‘neither difficult or easy’. I just got out of bed and, yes, my feet swung off the bed and landed on the floor. I have not thoughts of what will come next, although soon I’ll be taking a shower I suspect.
    Why just last night it was ‘difficult, difficult’ as my umbrella broke with the windy rain coming down. Difficult for a a while, that is, as I came to realize that I as going to get wet whether I was upset about it or not.
    thanks, James

  • Cushing

    Thanks for sharing this James. Layman P’ang is one of my favorite Zen figures and I have reread my dog-eared copy of Ruth Fuller Sasaki’s translation many times. I still have no absolutely no idea what he’s talking about for the most part – for me the wisdom is in the loving, humorous way he interacts with the various people he encounters, and especially with his astonishing daughter Ling Zhao (who I suspect may actually be the central figure in this whole shaggy dog story). I find particularly moving, in an totally uncomprehending sort of way, Ling Zhao having tricked Layman P’ang into rousing himself from his death bed to look at the sun, thereby enabling her to die before him.

  • Daniel Kaplan

    Hi Cushing.
    Often, for me, I have looked right past the obvious in koans to discover the ‘real, zen’ meaning of it. But what if this koan were simply as it appears? Difficult, difficult, difficult. Can you relate any of your own experiences to times you found or described at difficult? What might they be? Have there not been times you found life just going along swimmingly, with ease? Easy, easy, easy, says Mrs. Pang. And what about those times when, on reflection, you didn’t bother to describe your experience but WERE your experience? And yes, the family DOES play, don’t they? I LOVE that about the Pangs, and it reminds me to breathe out, sometimes, to not hold the koan, or my life, so tightly. It’s a true encouragement, isn’t it?