Seiko asked, “How can you proceed on from the top of a hundred-foot pole?”
Another Master said, “One sitting on the top of a hundred-foot pole has entered the Way but has not yet attained the real thing. He should proceed on from there and reveal his true self in the ten directions.”
Anyone can climb to the top of a hundred-foot pole by effort. But to proceed farther is logically impossible. How can the student do it? He can come to understand enlightenment, but merely knowing what Nirvana is, is not Zen. Zen is life, and life is superior to logic. Unless the student puts his life into it with purity of aspiration, he will never attain it. If one wants to test gold, one must smelt it in a blazing furnace. If one wants a cub, one must go into the lion’s den.
As for the second Master’s comment, merely attaining enlightenment (sitting on top of the pole) is not enough. One must go farther—in the ten directions of east, west, north, south, northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest, above, and below. This means that the actual work begins after awakening since once has attuned their antenna to a certain higher frequency. Complacency to exhaust all the stores of merit, virtue and inner treasure has a tremendous negative (regressive) effect on the final result – one’s perfection of Nirvana-without-remainder.
One must live the deeper realizations they have acquired, the Master says. Real enlightenment means “Mundane life constitutes of Nirvana: Nirvana constitutes mundane, day to day, life.” Therefore, the most accomplished enlightened persons gain further perfection by going back to indulge in ordinary life, while simultaneously and spontaneously teaching others the essences of higher spiritual philosophy.