Of course, things are only ‘funny’ if we ‘sense’ the humour implicit in the situation. When the British academic - John Blofeld - sought out Master Xu Yun in 1930s China, one of the first things Xu Yun pointed-out was that the ‘reality’ he was seeking was not only ‘here and now’, but had been even in the UK! Not only this, but Xu Yun stated (on numerous occasions) that we must transform exactly ‘where we are’ and turn it into a ‘Bodhimandala’ - a sacred or holy place of intensive, spiritual activity. The activity intended is that of intensely ‘looking within’ here and now. A ‘drilling into’ material reality, no less, using the hua tou method. Wherever a Ch’an practitioner places his or her meditation mat, then that is where this great matter will be decided! Yes, we can spend time moving from here to there, and from there to here, but eventually we must all settle-down and face our klesic demons, so to speak. Change for change’s sake only draws-out the process for no reason. When master Xu Yun slept in a cow-shed, what did the cows think? More to the point, what did the monks think? Particularly those who sought-out more comfort and greater status? What about those visiting officials (with their airs and graces) who visited the Temple to meet what they thought was a ‘great’ spiritual being? A dishevelled Xu Yun would emerge from the hay-stack and ask what they wanted... When the tyrant Chiang Kai-Shek visited Xu Yun, Xu Yun did not care who he was. He spent the time telling him off for ‘forcing’ the Chinese people to embrace Western Christianity which he (Xu Yun) thought was not compatible with Chinese culture! Afterwards, Xu Yun would not let the matter pass, and actually ‘wrote’ a letter to Chiang Kai-Shek going over all the same points he had made!
Part of Ch’an humour is a spiritual fearlessness. This obviously manifests in time, but is ‘timeless’ in essence. Ch’an humour is loving and wise. The underlying ‘emptiness’ of material reality is very different to the material reality that manifests within it – and yet there is no conflict or contradiction. Everything we need is ‘here’. It is the ‘method’ for seeing this that is required. When returning from Burma (Myanmar) with a large Buddha statue, the workmen with Xu Yun said that could not proceed as there was a giant boulder blocking the road which they could not collectively move. Xu Yun explained that he was a frail old man, and that they had been paid to carry the Buddha statue for him! As a weak and old man, how was he supposed to get the Buddha statue back to China if they could not perform simple tasks involving youthful strength? After contemplating the situation for a few minutes, Xu Yun picked up the boulder with ease and threw it to the side of the road, clearing a way through! The workmen were astonished, bowed to the ground and picked-up the statue and were on their way! The humour in this situation obviously made the boulder appear very ‘light’ to Master Xu Yu, who used the situation to clear the minds of the workmen.