Mother of the bride dresses wedding invitations for Th e old woman said, I asked Zhaozhou to recite the complete collection of sutras. Why did he recite only half the sutras? Th e woman is clever, but is Zhaozhou in the wrong in terms of how he handled the unrealistic command? Typically, Dogen's interpretation reverses the conventional reading of the case. He argues that Zhaozhou walking around his chair really did represent the 174 whole of the Buddhist sutras, whereas the old woman was merely lost in her concern for the relative number of scriptures recited. At the same time, in contrast to this line of interpretation that is critical of the old woman, Dogen suggests that perhaps she really wanted to see Zhaozhou walk around the chair backward, or in the opposite direction, in order to unveil his appreciation of absurdity.
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Th ere are several other versions of the narrative culled from various rec ords of the transmission of the lamp. In one rendition, a diff erent master also walks around the chair, but this time the old woman is criticized for not saying, I asked him to recite the entire collection of the sutras. Why did the master worry himself so much? In another version, master Dongshan fi rst bows to the messenger, who returns the gesture, but then he circumambulates the chair with the offi cer and asks, Why can't you understand that I have read a sutra with you? In addition, Dogen relates how his Chinese mentor Rujing, who was once asked to read a lengthy sutra, delivered a sermon by drawing a big circle in the air with his ceremonial fl y whisk and saying, Now I have read it.
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