Gateless Gate )
61 - 80
The emperor Goyozei was studying
Zen under Gudo. He inquired: "In Zen this very mind is Buddha. Is this
Gudo answered: "If I say yes, you
will think that you understand without understanding. If I say no, I
would be contradicting a fact which you may understand quite well."
On another day the emperor asked
Gudo: "Where does the enlightened man go when he dies?"
Gudo answered: "I know not."
"Why don't you know?" asked the
"Because I have not died yet,"
The emperor hesitated to inquire
further about these things his mind could not grasp. So Gudo beat the
floor with his hand as if to awaken him, and the emperor was
The emperor respected Zen and old
Gudo more than ever after his enlightenment, and he even permitted Gudo
to wear his hat in the palace in winter. When Gudo was over eighty he
used to fall asleep in the midst of his lecture, and the emperor would
quietly retire to another room so his beloved teacher might enjoy the
rest his aging body required. ^
A great Japanese warrior named
Nobunaga decided to attack the enemy although he had only one-tenth the
number of men the opposition commanded. He knew that he would win, but
his soldiers were in doubt.
On the way he stopped at a Shinto
shrine and told his men: "After I visit the shrine I will toss a coin.
If heads comes, we will win; if tails, we will lose. Destiny holds us in
Nobunaga entered the shrine and
offered a silent prayer. He came forth and tossed a coin. Heads
appeared. His soldiers were so eager to fight that they won their battle
"No one can change the hand of
destiny," his attendant told him after the battle.
"Indeed not," said Nobunaga,
showing a coin which had been doubled, with heads facing either way.
Gasan instructed his adherents
one day: "Those who speak against killing and who desire to spare the
lives of all conscious beings are right. It is good to protect even
animals and insects. But what about those persons who kill time, what
about those who are destroying wealth, and those who destroy political
economy? We should not overlook them. Furthermore, what of the one who
preaches without enlightenment? He is killing Buddhism." ^
Kasan was asked to officiate at
the funeral of a provincial lord.
He had never met lords and nobles
before so he was nervous. When the ceremony started, Kasan sweat.
Afterwards, when he had returned,
he gathered his pupils together. Kasan confessed that he was not yet
qualified to be a teacher for he lacked the sameness of bearing in the
world of fame that he possessed in the secluded temple. Then Kasan
resigned and became a pupil of another master. Eight years later he
returned to his former pupils, enlightened. ^
A young wife fell sick and was
about to die. "I love you so much," she told her husband, "I do not want
to leave you. Do not go from me to any other woman. If you do, I will
return as a ghost and cause you endless trouble."
Soon the wife passed away. The
husband respected her last wish for the first three months, but then he
met another woman and fell in love with her. They became engaged to be
Immediately after the engagement
a ghost appeared every night to the man, blaming him for not keeping his
promise. The ghost was clever too. She told him exactly what has
transpired between himself and his new sweetheart. Whenever he gave his
fiancee a present, the ghost would describe it in detail. She would even
repeat conversations, and it so annoyed the man that he could not sleep.
Someone advised him to take his problem to a Zen master who lived close
to the village. At length, in despair, the poor man went to him for
"Your former wife became a ghost
and knows everything you do," commented the master. "Whatever you do or
say, whatever you give you beloved, she knows. She must be a very wise
ghost. Really you should admire such a ghost. The next time she appears,
bargain with her. Tell her that she knows so much you can hide nothing
from her, and that if she will answer you one question, you promise to
break your engagement and remain single."
"What is the question I must ask
her?" inquired the man.
The master replied: "Take a large
handful of soy beans and ask her exactly how many beans you hold in your
hand. If she cannot tell you, you will know she is only a figment of
your imagination and will trouble you no longer."
The next night, when the ghost
appeared the man flattered her and told her that she knew everything.
"Indeed," replied the ghost, "and
I know you went to see that Zen master today."
"And since you know so much,"
demanded the man, "tell me how many beans I hold in this hand!"
There was no longer any ghost to
answer the question. ^
Yamaoka Tesshu was a tutor of the
emperor. He was also a master of fencing and a profound student of Zen.
His home was the abode of
vagabonds. He has but one suit of clothes, for they kept him always
The emperor, observing how worn
his garments were, gave Yamaoka some money to buy new ones. The next
time Yamaoka appeared he wore the same old outfit.
"What became of the new clothes,
Yamaoka?" asked the emperor.
"I provided clothes for the
children of Your Majesty," explained Yamaoka. ^
In modern times a great deal of
nonsense is talked about masters and disciples, and about the
inheritance of a master's teaching by favorite pupils, entitling them to
pass the truth on to their adherents. Of course Zen should be imparted
in this way, from heart to heart, and in the past it was really
accomplished. Silence and humility reigned rather than profession and
assertion. The one who received such a teaching kept the matter hidden
even after twenty years. Not until another discovered through his own
need that a real master was at hand was it learned that the teching had
been imparted, and even then the occasion arose quite naturally and the
teaching made its way in its own right. Under no circumstance did the
teacher even claim "I am the successor of So-and-so." Such a claim would
prove quite the contrary.
The Zen master Mu-nan had only
one successor. His name was Shoju. After Shoju had completed his study
of Zen, Mu-nan called him into his room. "I am getting old," he said,
"and as far as I know, Shoju, you are the only one who will carry on
this teaching. Here is a book. It has been passed down from master to
master for seven generations. I have also added many points according to
my understanding. The book is very valuable, and I am giving it to you
to represent your successorhip."
"If the book is such an important
thing, you had better keep it," Shoju replied. "I received your Zen
without writing and am satisfied with it as it is."
"I know that," said Mu-nan. "Even
so, this work has been carried from master to master for seven
generations, so you may keep it as a symbol of having received the
They happened to be talking
before a brazier. The instant Shoju felt the book in his hands he thrust
it into the flaming coals. He had no lust for possessions.
Mu-nan, who never had been angry
before, yelled: "What are you doing!"
Shoju shouted back: "What are you
After Kakua visited the emperor
he disappeared and no one knew what became of him. He was the first
Japanese to study Zen in China, but since he showed nothing of it, save
one note, he is not remembered for having brought Zen into his country.
Kakua visited China and accepted
the true teaching. He did not travel while he was there. Meditating
constantly, he lived on a remote part of a mountain. Whenever people
found him and asked him to preach he would say a few words and then move
to another part of the mountain where he could be found less easily.
The emperor heard about Kakua
when he returned to Japan and asked him to preach Zen for his
edification and that of his subjects.
Kakua stood before the emperor in
silence. He the produced a flute from the folds of his robe, and blew
one short note. Bowing politely, he disappeared. ^
Circumstances arose one day which
delayed preperation of the dinner of a Soto Zen master, Fukai, and his
followers. In haste the cook went to the garden with his curved knife
and cut off the tops of green vegetables, chopped them together and made
soup, unaware that in his haste he had included a part of a snake in the
The followers of Fugai thought
they never tasted such good soup. But when the master himself found the
snake's head in his bowl, he summoned the cook. "What is this?" he
demanded, holding yo the head of the snake.
"Oh, thank you, master," replied
the cook, taking the morsel and eating it quickly. ^
Sozan, a Chinese Zen master, was
asked by a student: "What is the most valuable thing in the world?"
The master replied: "The head of
a dead cat."
"Why is the head of a dead cat
the most valuable thing in the world?" inquired the student.
Sozan replied: "Because no one
can name its price." ^
The pupils of the Tendai school
used to study meditation before Zen entered Japan. Four of them who were
intimate friends promised one another to observe seven days of silence.
On the first day all were silent.
Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but when night came and the oil
lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help exclaiming to a
servant: "Fix those lamps."
The second pupils was surprised
to hear the first one talk. "We are not supposed to say a word," he
"You two are stupid. Why did you
talk?" asked the third.
"I am the only one who has not
talked," concluded the fourth pupil. ^
Two Zen teachers, Daigu and Gudo,
were invited to visit a lord. Upon arriving, Gudo said to the lord: "You
are wise by nature and have an inborn ability to learn Zen."
"Nonsense," said Daigu. "Why do
you flatter this blockhead? He may be a lord, but he doesn't know
anything of Zen."
So, instead of building a temple
for Gudo, the lord built it for Daigu and studied Zen with him.
Zen pupils take a vow that even
if they are killed by their teacher, they intend to learn Zen. Usually
they cut a finger and seal their resolution with blood. In time the vow
has become a mere formality, and for this reason the pupil who died by
the hand of Ekido was made to appear a martyr.
Ekido had become a severe
teacher. His pupils feared him. One of them on duty, striking the gong
to tell the time of day, missed his beats when his eye was attracted by
a beautiful girl passing the temple gate.
At that moment Ekido, who was
directly behind him, hit him with a stick and the shock happened to kill
The pupil's guardian, hearing of
the accident, went directly to Ekido. Knowing that he was not to blame
he praised the master for his severe teaching. Ekido's attitude was just
the same as if the pupil were still alive.
After this took place, he was
able to produce under his guidance more than ten enlightened successors,
a very unusual number. ^
Ryokan devoted his life to the
study of Zen. One day he heard that his nephew, despite the admonitions
of relatives, was spending his money on a courtesan. Inasmuch as the
nephew had taken Ryokan's place in managing the family estate and the
property was in danger of being dissipated, the relatives asked Ryoken
to do something about it.
Ryokan had to travel a long way
to visit his nephew, whom he had not seen for many years. The nephew
seemed pleased to meet his uncle again and invited him to remain
All night Ryokan sat in
meditation. As he was departing in the morning he said to the young man:
"I must be getting old, my hand shakes so. Will you help me tie the
string of my straw sandal?"
The nephew helped him willingly.
"Thank you," finished Ryokan, "you see, a man becomes older and feebler
day by day. Take good care of yourself." Then Ryokan left, never
mentioning a word about the courtesan or the complaints of the
relatives. But, from that morning on, the dissipations of the nephew
A Zen student came to Bankei and
complained: "Master, I have an ungovernable temper. How can I cure it?"
"You have something very
strange," replied Bankei. "Let me see what you have."
"Just now I cannot show it to
you," replied the other.
"When can you show it to me?"
"It arises unexpectedly," replied
"Then," concluded Bankei, "it
must not be your own true nature. If it were, you could show it to me at
any time. When you were born you did not have it, and your parents did
not give it to you. Think that over." ^
Hogen, a Chinese Zen teacher,
lived alone in a small temple in the country. One day four traveling
monks appeared and asked if they might make a fire in his yard to warm
While they were building the
fire, Hogen heard them arguing about subjectivity and objectivity. He
joined them and said: "There is a big stone. Do you consider it to be
inside or outside your mind?"
One of the monks replied: "From
the Buddhist viewpoint everything is an objectification of mind, so I
would say that the stone is inside my mind."
"Your head must feel very heavy,"
observed Hogen, "if you are carrying around a stone like that in your
Zengetsu, a Chinese master of the
T'ang dynasty, wrote the following advice for his pupils:
Living in the world yet not
forming attachments to the dust of the world is the way of a true Zen
When witnessing the good action
of another encourage yourself to follow his example. Hearing of the
mistaken action of another, advise yourself not to emulate it.
Even though alone in a dark room,
be as if you were facing a noble guest. Express your feelings, but
become no more expressive than your true nature.
Poverty is your treasure. Never
exchange it for an easy life.
A person may appear a fool and
yet not be one. He may only be guarding his wisdom carefully.
Virtues are the fruit of
self-discipline and do not drop from heaven of themselves as does rain
Modesty is the foundation of all
virtues. Let your neighbors discover you before you make yourself known
A noble heart never forces itself
forward. Its words are as rare gems, seldom displayed and of great
To a sincere student, every day
is a fortunate day. Time passes but he never lags behind. Neither glory
nor shame can move him.
Censure yourself, never another.
Do not discuss right and wrong.
Some things, though right, were
considered wrong for generations. Since the value of righteousness may
be recognized after centuries, there is no need to crave immediate
Live with cause and leave results
to the great law of the universe. Pass each day in peaceful
A rich man asked Sengai to write
something for the continued prosperity of his family so that it might be
treasured from generation to generation.
Sengai obtained a large sheet of
paper and wrote: "Father dies, son dies, grandson dies."
The rich man became angry. "I
asked you to write something for the happiness of my family! Why do you
make such a joke of this?"
"No joke is intended," explained
Sengai. "If before you yourself die your son should die, this would
grieve you greatly. If your grandson should pass away before your son,
both of you would be broken-hearted. If your family, generation after
generation, passes away in the order I have named, it will be the
natural course of life. I call this real prosperity." ^
A woman of Nagasaki named Kame
was one of the few makers of incense burners in Japan. Such a burner is
a work of art to be used only in a tearoom of before a family shrine.
Kame, whose father before her had
been such an artist, was fond of drinking. She also smoked and
associated with men most of the time. Whenever she made a little money
she gave a feast inviting artists, poets, carpenters, workers, men of
many vocations and avocations. In their association she evolved her
Kame was exceedingly slow in
creating, but when her work was finished it was always a masterpiece.
Her burners were treasured in homes whose womanfolk never drank, smoked,
or associated freely with men.
The mayor of Nagasaki once
requested Kame to design an incense burner for him. She delayed doing so
until almost half a year had passed. At that time the mayor, who had
been promoted to office in a distant city, visited her. He urged Kame to
begin work on his burner.
At last receiving the
inspiration, Kame made the incense burner. After it was completed she
placed it upon a table. She looked at it long and carefully. She smoked
and drank before it as if it were her own company. All day she observed
At last, picking up a hammer,
Kame smashed it to bits. She saw it was not the perfect creation her
mind demanded. ^
When Bankei was preaching at
Ryumon temple, a Shinshu priest, who believed in salvation through
repetition of the name of the Buddha of Love, was jealous of his large
audience and wanted to debate with him.
Bankei was in the midst of a talk
when the priest appeared, but the fellow made such a disturbance that
Bankei stopped his discourse and asked about the noise.
"The founder of our sect,"
boasted the priest, "had such miraculous powers that he held a brush in
his hand on one bank of the river, his attendant held up a paper on the
other bank, and the teacher wrote the holy name of Amida through the
air. Can you do such a wonderful thing?"
Bankei replied lightly: "Perhaps
your fox can perform that trick, but that is not the manner of Zen. My
miracle is that when I feel hungry I eat, and when I feel thirsty I
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