The problem, of course, is when someone else needs help, Mu can't help them. Mu doesn't allow for compassion (at least not in this stage of a student's training). So Seung Sahn stresses an emptiness of mind, what he calls "mirror mind." This allows for compassion to arise when it's needed. It's a form of upaya or skillful means--the ability to adapt to meet the needs of others.
As I was reading Branching Streams Flow Through the Darkness by Shunryu Suzuki, I encountered a type of koan that captures Seung Sahn's koan teaching method. I didn't make this scenario up; it actually happened to one of Suzuki's students. It goes like this:
You're beating the mokugyo (a small wooden drum) during morning Zen service--a task you take very seriously. The entire chant depends on you beating this drum. If you slip up, the service will be ruined. Suddenly you notice a spider crawling on top of the mokugyo. What do you do?
We see the dilemma: if we stop to save the spider we interrupt the chant and the service, risk embarrassment and perhaps a scolding from the teacher. However, if we continue, we'll kill the spider--a violation of the first Precept. We must act. We must step off the hundred-foot pole.
What do we do?
Mokugyo photo borrowed from Creative Commons flickr user: Big Mind Zen Center.