You're on top of a 100ft pole.
Now how do you advance?
Background on this Koan:
(paraphased from heartofmeditation.com)
Sekiso (testing his monks) asked "How can you proceed on from the top of a hundred-foot pole?"
The website goes on to illustrate how Sekiso created a sort of impromptu fire drill by shouting "Fire!" where there was no fire. I suppose knowing this about Sekiso is probably a big clue how they solved the koan of "No pole".
What some people think:
(also from heartofmeditation.com) "Forget about the distracting pole. Just walk."
It seems their interpretation is the fact that this was just a case of misdirection in the testing words. "Pole!" Now the poor fellow can't concentrate on anything else. He's thinking of this pole. If this truely is the answer, then see my thoughts about this koan below. Have I been tripped up by this trap?
My thoughts on this koan:
I like to look at this one from many angles which, I believe, is the point of a lot of Zen lessons; see something from a new perspective or from someone else's. I like this koan especially because I see it in several ways. This makes this a wonderful koan to present to someone then simply observe that person's answer. I think it helps you get a good idea about that person and the particular insight they applied to the koan.
The Riduculous Question:
One way I look at it is, "What a ridiculous question". Why the hell would I be on a pole in the first place? This doesn't deserve an answer. I suppose this could be a little bit like the Buddha's refusal to answer ridiculous, mal-formed questions.
The Reality Angle:
Remove the concept. I'm in an office chair reading a book, not on a perilously tall pole somewhere in peril and about to fall to my death. This is what's real, not your concept of "what if this" or "what about that". I'm here now in this moment.
Letting go of the thought. Letting go of the fear. Letting go of "what's next in the future". I'm on a pole. If I need to sit here, I'll just sit here forever. If I need to "advance", what direction will I go? Who cares? Do I advance down the pole sliding down it? Do I advance upward by sprouting my arms and flapping? Do I advance into the void and jump? Which direction is forward, which is backward?