Gateless Gate )
21 - 40
The master of Kennin temple was
Mokurai, Silent Thunder. He had a little protégé named Toyo who was only
twelve years old. Toyo saw the older disciples visit the master's room
each morning and evening to receive instruction in sanzen or personal
guidence in which they were given koans to stop mind-wandering.
Toyo wished to do sanzen also.
"Wait a while," said Mokurai.
"You are too young."
But the child insisted, so the
teacher finally consented.
In the evening little Toyo went
at the proper time to the threshold of Mokurai's sanzen room. He struck
the gong to announce his presence, bowed respectfully three times
outside the door, and went to sit before the master in respectful
"You can hear the sound of two
hands when they clap together," said Mokurai. "Now show me the sound of
Toyo bowed and went to his room
to consider this problem. From his window he could hear the music of the
geishas. "Ah, I have it!" he proclaimed.
The next evening, when his
teacher asked him to illustrate the sound of one hand, Toyo began to
play the music of the geishas.
"No, no," said Mokurai. "That
will never do. That is not the sound of one hand. You've not got it at
Thinking that such music might
interrupt, Toyo moved his abode to a quiet place. He meditated again.
"What can the sound of one hand be?" He happened to hear some water
dripping. "I have it," imagined Toyo.
When he next appeared before his
teacher, he imitated dripping water.
"What is that?" asked Mokurai.
"That is the sound of dripping water, but not the sound of one hand. Try
In vain Toyo meditated to hear
the sound of one hand. He heard the sighing of the wind. But the sound
He heard the cry of an owl. This
was also refused.
The sound of one hand was not the
For more than ten times Toyo
visited Mokurai with different sounds. All were wrong. For almost a year
he pondered what the sound of one hand might be.
At last Toyo entered true
meditation and transcended all sounds. "I could collect no more," he
explained later, "so I reached the soundless sound."
Toyo had realized the sound of
one hand. ^
Soyen Shaku, the first Zen
teacher to come to America, said: "My heart burns like fire but my eyes
are as cold as dead ashes." He made the following rules which he
practiced every day of his life.
the morning before dressing, light incense and meditate.
- Retire at a regular hour. Partake of food at regular
intervals. Eat with moderation and never to the point of satisfaction.
- Receive a guest with the same attitude you have when alone.
When alone, maintain the same attitude you have in receiving guests.
what you say, and whatever you say, practice it.
an opportunity comes do not let it pass you by, yet always think twice
not regret the past. Look to the future.
the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child.
retiring, sleep as if you had entered your last sleep. Upon awakening,
leave your bed behind you instantly as if you had cast away a pair of
When Eshun, the Zen nun, was past
sixty and about to leave this world, she asked some monks to pile up
wood in the yard.
Seating herself firmly in the
center of the funeral pyre, she had it set fire around the edges.
"O nun!" shouted one monk, "is it
hot in there?"
"Such a matter would concern only
a stupid person like yourself," answered Eshun.
The flames arose, and she passed
A farmer requested a Tendai
priest to recite sutras for his wife, who had died. After the recitation
was over the farmer asked: "Do you think my wife will gain merit from
"Not only your wife, but all
sentient beings will benefit from the recitation of sutras," answered
"If you say all sentient beings
will benefit," said the farmer, "my wife may be very weak and others
will take advantage of her, getting the benefit she should have. So
please recite sutras just for her."
The priest explained that it was
the desire of a Buddhist to offer blessings and wish merit for every
"That is a fine teaching,"
concluded the farmer, "but please make one exception. I have a neighbor
who is rough and mean to me. Just exclude him from all those sentient
Suiwo, the disciple of Hakuin,
was a good teacher. During one summer seclusion period, a pupil came to
him from a southern island of Japan.
Suiwo gave him the problem: "Hear
the sound of one hand."
The pupil remained three years
but could not pass the test. One night he came in tears to Suiwo. "I
must return south in shame and embarrassment," he said, "for I cannot
solve my problem."
"Wait one week more and meditate
constantly," advised Suiwo. Still no enlightenment came to the pupil.
"Try for another week," said Suiwo. The pupil obeyed, but in vain.
"Still another week." Yet this
was of no avail. In despair the student begged to be released, but Suiwo
requested another meditation of five days. They were without result.
Then he said: "Meditate for three days longer, then if you fail to
attain enlightenment, you had better kill yourself."
On the second day the pupil was
Provided he makes and wins an
argument about Buddhism with those who live there, any wandering monk
can remain in a Zen temple. If he is defeated, he has to move on.
In a temple in the northern part
of Japan two brother monks were dwelling together. The elder one was
learned, but the younger one was stupid and had but one eye.
A wandering monk came and asked
for lodging, properly challenging them to a debate about the sublime
teaching. The elder brother, tired that day from much studying, told the
younger one to take his place. "Go and request the dialogue in silence,"
So the young monk and the
stranger went to the shrine and sat down.
Shortly afterwards the traveler
rose and went in to the elder brother and said: "Your young brother is a
wonderful fellow. He defeated me."
"Relate the dialogue to me," said
the elder one.
"Well," explained the traveler,
"first I held up one finger, representing Buddha, the enlightened one.
So he held up two fingers, signifying Buddha and his teaching. I held up
three fingers, representing Buddha, his teaching, and his followers,
living the harmonious life. Then he shook his clenched fist in my face,
indicating that all three come from one realization. Thus he won and so
I have no right to remain here." With this, the traveler left.
"Where is that fellow?" asked the
younger one, running in to his elder brother.
"I understand you won the
"Won nothing. I'm going to beat
"Tell me the subject of the
debate," asked the elder one.
"Why, the minute he saw me he
held up one finger, insulting me by insinuating that I have only one
eye. Since he was a stranger I thought I would be polite to him, so I
held up two fingers, congratulating him that he has two eyes. Then the
impolite wretch held up three fingers, suggesting that between us we
only have three eyes. So I got mad and started to punch him, but he ran
out and that ended it!" ^
After Bankei had passed away, a
blind man who lived near the master's temple told a friend: "Since I am
blind, I cannot watch a person's face, so I must judge his character by
the sound of his voice. Ordinarily when I hear someone congratulate
another upon his happiness or success, I also hear a secret tone of
envy. When condolence is expressed for the misfortune of another, I hear
pleasure and satisfaction, as if the one condoling was really glad there
was something left to gain in his own world.
"In all my experience, however,
Bankei's voice was always sincere. Whenever he expressed happiness, I
heard nothing but happiness, and whenever he expressed sorrow, sorrow
was all I heard." ^
Daiju visited the master Baso in
China. Baso asked: "What do you seek?"
"Enlightenment," replied Daiju.
"You have your own treasure
house. Why do you search outside?" Baso asked.
Daiju inquired: "Where is my
Baso answered: "What you are
asking is your treasure house."
Daiju was delighted! Ever after
he urged his friends: "Open your own treasure house and use those
When the nun Chiyono studied Zen
under Bukko of Engaku she was unable to attain the fruits of meditation
for a long time.
At last one moonlit night she was
carrying water in an old pail bound with bamboo. The bamboo broke and
the bottom fell out of the pail, and at that moment Chiyono was set
In commemoration, she wrote a
In this way and that I tried to
save the old pail
Since the bamboo strip
was weakening and about to break
Until at last the bottom
No more water in the pail!
moon in the water! ^
Keichu, the great Zen teacher of
the Meiji era, was the head of Tofuku, a cathedral in Kyoto. One day the
governor of Kyoto called upon him for the first time.
His attendant presented the card
of the governor, which read: Kitagaki, Governor of Kyoto.
"I have no business with such a
fellow," said Keichu to his attendant. "Tell him to get out of here."The
attendant carried the card back with apologies. "That was my error,"
said the governor, and with a pencil he scratched out the words Governor
of Kyoto. "Ask your teacher again."
"Oh, is that Kitagaki?" exclaimed
the teacher when he saw the card. "I want to see that fellow."
When Banzan was walking through a
market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.
"Give me the best piece of meat
you have," said the customer.
"Everything in my shop is the
best," replied the butcher. "You cannot find here any piece of meat that
is not the best."
At these words Banzan became
A lord asked Takuan, a Zen
teacher, to suggest how he might pass the time. He felt his days very
long attending his office and sitting stiffly to receive the homage of
Takuan wrote eight Chinese
characters and gave them to the man:
Not twice this
Inch time foot
This day will not come again.
is worth a priceless gem. ^
Mokusen Hiki was living in a
temple in the province of Tamba. One of his adherents complained of the
stinginess of his wife.
Mokusen visited the adherent's
wife and showed her his clenched fist before her face.
"What do you mean by that?" asked
the surprised woman.
"Suppose my fist were always like
that. What would you call it?" he asked.
"Deformed," replied the woman.
The he opened his hand flat in
her face and asked: "Suppose it were always like that. What then?"
"Another kind of deformity," said
"If you understand that much,"
finished Mokusen, "you are a good wife." Then he left.
After his visit, this wife helped
her husband to distribute as well as to save. ^
Mokugen was never known to smile
until his last day on earth. When his time came to pass away he said to
his faithful ones: "You have studied under me for more than ten years.
Show me your real interpretation of Zen. Whoever expresses this most
clearly shall by my successor and receive my robe and bowl."
Everyone watched Mokugen's severe
face, but no one answered.
Encho, a disciple who had been
with his teacher for a long time, moved near the bedside. He pushed
forward the medicine cup a few inches. This was his answer to the
The teacher's face became even
more severe. "Is that all you understand?" he asked.
Encho reached out and moved the
cup back again.
A beautiful smile broke over the
features of Mokugen. "You rascal," he told Encho. "You worked with me
ten years and have not yet seen my whole body. Take the robe and bowl.
They belong to you." ^
Zen students are with their
masters at least two years before they presume to teach others. Nan-in
was visited by Tenno, who, having passed his apprenticeship, had become
a teacher. The day happened to be rainy, so Tenno wore wodden clogs and
carried an umbrella. After greeting him Nan-in remarked: "I suppose you
left your wooden clogs in the vestibule. I want to know if your umbrella
is on the right or left side of the clogs."
Tenno, confused, had no instant
answer. He realized that he was unable to carry his Zen every minute. He
became Nan-in's pupil, and he studied six more years to accomplish his
every-minute Zen. ^
Subhuti was Buddha's disciple. He
was able to understand the potency of emptiness, the viewpoint that
nothing exists except in its relationship of subjectivity and
One day Subhuti, in a mood of
sublime emptiness, was sitting under a tree. Flowers began to fall about
"We are praising you for your
discourse on emptiness," the gods whispered to him.
"But I have not spoken of
emptiness," said Subhuti.
"You have not spoken of
emptiness, we have not heard emptiness," responded the gods. "This is
true emptiness." And blossoms showered upon Subhuto as rain.
Tetsugen, a devotee of Zen in
Japan, decided to publish the sutras, which at that time were available
only in Chinese. The books were to be printed with wood blocks in an
edition of seven thousand copies, a tremendous undertaking.
Tetsugen began by traveling and
collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give him
a hundred pieces of gold, but most of the time he received only small
coins. He thanked each donor with equal gratitude. After ten years
Tetsugen had enough money to begin his task.
It happened that at that time the
Uji River overflowed. Famine followed. Tetsugen took the funds he had
collected for the books and spent them to save others from starvation.
Then he began again his work of collecting.
Several years afterwards an
epidemic spread over the country. Tetsugen again gave away what he had
collected, to help his people.
For a third time he started his
work, and after twenty years his wish was fulfilled. The printing blocks
which produced the first edition of sutras can be seen today in the
Obaku monastery in Kyoto.
The Japanese tell their children
that Tetsugen made three sets of sutras, and that the first two
invisible sets surpass even the last. ^
Gisho was ordained as a nun when
she was ten years old. She received training just as the little boys
did. When she reached the age of sixteen she traveled from one Zen
master to another, studying with them all.
She remained three years with
Unzan, six years with Gukei, but was unable to obtained a clear vision.
At last she went to the master Inzan.
Inzan showed her no distinction
at all on account of her sex. He scolded her like a thunderstorm. He
cuffed her to awaken her inner nature.
Gisho remained with Inzan
thirteen years, and then she found that which she was seeking!
In her honor, Inzan wrote a poem:
This nun studied thirteen years
under my guidance.
In the evening she
considered the deepest koans,
In the morning she was wrapped
in other koans.
The Chinese nun Tetsuma surpassed all before
And since Mujaku none has been so genuine as this
Yet there are many more gates for her to pass
She should receive still more blows from my iron
After Gisho was enlightened she
went to the province of Banshu, started her own Zen temple, and taught
two hundred other nuns until she passed away one year in the month of
The master Soyen Shaku passed
from this world when he was sixty-one years of age. Fulfilling his
life's work, he left a great teaching, far richer than that of most Zen
masters. His pupils used to sleep in the daytime during midsummer, and
while he overlooked this he himself never wasted a minute.
When he was but twelve years old
he was already studying Tendai philosophical speculation. One summer day
the air had been so sultry that little Soyen stretched his legs and went
to sleep while his teacher was away.
Three hours passed when, suddenly
waking, he heard his master enter, but it was too late. There he lay,
sprawled across the doorway.
"I beg your pardon, I beg your
pardon," his teacher whispered, stepping carefully over Soyen's body as
if it were that of some distinguished guest. After this, Soyen never
slept again in the afternoon. ^
"Our schoolmaster used to take a
nap every afternoon," related a disciple of Soyen Shaku. "We children
asked him why he did it and he told us: 'I go to dreamland to meet the
old sages just as Confucius did.' When Confucius slept, he would dream
of ancient sages and later tell his followers about them.
"It was extremely hot one day so
some of us took a nap. Our schoolmaster scolded us. 'We went to
dreamland to meet the ancient sages the same as Confucius did,' we
explained. 'What was the message from those sages?' our schoolmaster
demanded. One of us replied: 'We went to dreamland and met the sages and
asked them if our schoolmaster came there every afternoon, but they said
they had never seen any such fellow.'" ^
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Update : 01-12-2002