Some higher, some lower; all knots on a stalk of bamboo are equal
竹有上下節 take ni jyōge setsu ari


On a stalk of bamboo, knots are located higher or lower than others.  Human relationships too, are organised with individuals higher and lower in status.  But like the knots of bamboo, no matter where they are located in a hierarchy, all humans are equal. This might run at odds with everyday thinking, but before the status we assign to different members of society and the discrimination we make between people, all humans are equal on a more fundamental level. We should not let ourselves forget this, our equality should help us promote harmonious relationships.

So saying women are better than men is misguided, but people of different sexes are surely not the same. And a wise teacher and their young student are surely different in status, but in the end they contain the same basic humanity.

One final point this zen verse highlights for us is that like the knots on a stalk of bamboo, though we live our own individual lives, we are all supported by others.


Image: @minenomatsu