Gateless Gate )
41 - 60
Joshu began the study of Zen when
he was sixty years old and continued until he was eighty, when he
He taught from the age of eighty
until he was one hundred and twenty.
A student once asked him: "If I
haven't anything in my mind, what shall I do?"
Joshu replied: "Throw it out."
"But if I haven't anything, how
can I throw it out?" continued the questioner.
"Well," said Joshu, "then carry
it out." ^
When Mamiya, who later became a
well-known preacher, went to a teacher for personal guidance, he was
asked to explain the sound of one hand.
Mamiya concentrated upon what the
sound of one hand might be. "You are not working hard enough," his
teacher told him. "You are too attached to food, wealth, things, and
that sound. It would be better if you died. That would solve the
The next time Mamiya appeared
before his teacher he was again asked what he had to show regarding the
sound of one hand. Mamiya at once fell over as if he were dead.
"You are dead all right,"
observed the teacher. "But how about that sound?"
"I haven't solved that yet,"
replied Mamiya, looking up.
"Dead men do not speak," said the
teacher. "Get out!" ^
Tosui was a well-known Zen
teacher of his time. He had lived in several temples and taught in
The last temple he visited
accumulated so many adherents that Tosui told them he was going to quit
the lecture business entirely. He advised them to disperse and go
wherever they desired. After that no one could find any trace of him.
Three years later one of his
disciples discovered him living with some beggars under a bridge in
Kyoto. He at once implored Tosui to teach him.
"If you can do as I do for even a
couple days, I might," Tosui replied.
So the former disciple dressed as
a beggar and spent the day with Tosui. The following day one of the
beggars died. Tosui and his pupil carried the body off at midnight and
buried it on a mountainside. After that they returned to their shelter
under the bridge.
Tosui slept soundly the remainder
of the night, but the disciple could not sleep. When morning came Tosui
said: "We do not have to beg food today. Our dead friend has left some
over there." But the disciple was unable to eat a single bite of it.
"I have said you could not do as
I," concluded Tosui. "Get out of here and do not bother me again."
One evening as Shichiri Kojun was
reciting sutras a thief with a sharp sword entered, demanding either
money or his life.
Shichiri told him: "Do not
disturb me. You can find the money in that drawer." Then he resumed his
A little while afterwards he
stopped and called: "Don't take it all. I need some to pay taxes with
The intruder gathered up most of
the money and started to leave. "Thank a person when you receive a
gift," Shichiri added. The man thanked him and made off.
A few days afterwards the fellow
was caught and confessed, among others, the offence against Shichiri.
When Shichiri was called as a witness he said: "This man is no thief, at
least as far as I am concerned. I gave him money and he thanked me for
After he had finished his prison
term, the man went to Shichiri and became his disciple. ^
When Bankei held his
seclusion-weeks of meditation, pupils from many parts of Japan came to
attend. During one of these gatherings a pupil was caught stealing. The
matter was reported to Bankei with the request that the culprit be
expelled. Bankei ignored the case.
Later the pupil was caught in a
similar act, and again Bankei disregarded the matter. This angered the
other pupils, who drew up a petition asking for the dismissal of the
thief, stating that otherwise they would leave in a body.
When Bankei had read the petition
he called everyone before him. "You are wise brothers," he told them.
"You know what is right and what is not right. You may go somewhere else
to study if you wish, but this poor brother does not even know right
from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here
even if all the rest of you leave."
A torrent of tears cleansed the
face of the brother who had stolen. All desire to steal had vanished.
During the Kamakura period,
Shinkan studied Tendai six years and then studied Zen seven years; then
he went to China and contemplated Zen for thirteen years more.
When he returned to Japan many
desired to interview him and asked obscure questions. But when Shinkan
received visitors, which was infrequently, he seldom answered their
One day a fifty-year-old student
of enlightenment said to Shinkan: "I have studied the Tendai school of
thought since I was a little boy, but one thing in it I cannot
understand. Tendai claims that even the grass and trees will become
enlightened. To me this seems very strange."
"Of what use is it to discuss how
grass and trees become enlightened?" asked Shinkan. "The question is how
you yourself can become so. Did you even consider that?"
"I never thought of it that way,"
marveled the old man.
"Then go home and think it over,"
finished Shinkan. ^
Gessen was an artist monk. Before
he would start a drawing or painting he always insisted upon being paid
in advance, and his fees were high. He was known as the "Stingy Artist."
A geisha once gave him a
commission for a painting. "How much can you pay?" inquired Gessen.
"'Whatever you charge," replied
the girl, "but I want you to do the work in front of me."
So on a certain day Gessen was
called by the geisha. She was holding a feast for her patron.
Gessen with fine brush work did
the paining. When it was completed he asked the highest sum of his time.
He received his pay. Then the
geisha turned to her patron saying: "All this artist wants is money. His
paintings are fine but his mind is dirty; money has caused it to become
muddy. Drawn by such a filthy mind, his work is not fit to exhibit. It
is just about good enough for one of my petticoats."
Removing her skirt, she then
asked Gessen to do another picture on the back of her petticoat.
"How much will you pay?" asked
"Oh, any amount," answered the
Gessen named a fancy price,
painted the picture in the manner requested, and went away.
It was learned later that Gessen
had these reasons for desiring money:
A ravaging famine often visited
his province. The rich would not help the poor, so Gessen had a secret
warehouse, unknown to anyone, which he kept filled with grain, prepared
for these emergencies.
From his village to the National
Shrine the road was in very poor condition and many travelers suffered
while traversing it. He desired to build a better road.
His teacher had passed away
without realizing his wish to build a temple, and Gessen wished to
complete this temple for him.
After Gessen had accomplished his
three wishes he threw away his brushes and artist's materials and,
retiring to the mountains, never painted again. ^
Sen no Rikyu, a tea-master,
wished to hang a flower basket on a column. He asked a carpenter to help
him, directing the man to place it a little higher or lower, to the
right or left, until he had found exactly the right spot. "That's the
place," said Sen no Rikya finally.
The carpenter, to test the
master, marked the spot and then pretended he had forgotten. Was this
the place? "Was this the place, perhaps?" the carpenter kept asking,
pointing to various places on the column.
But so accurate was the
tea-master's sense of proportion that it was not until the carpenter
reached the identical spot again that its location was approved.
A nun who was searching for
enlightenment made a statue of Buddha and covered it with gold leaf.
Wherever she ent she carried this golden Buddha with her.
Years passed and, still carrying
her Buddha, the nun came to live in a small temple in a country where
there were many Buddhas, each one with its own particular shrine.
The nun wished to burn incense
before her golden Buddha. Not liking the idea of the perfume straying to
others, she devised a funnel through which the smoke would ascend only
to her statue. This blackened the nose of the golden Buddha, making it
especially ugly. ^
The Buddhist nun known as Ryonen
was born in 1797. She was a graddaughter of the famous Japanese warrior
Shingen. Her poetical genius and alluring beauty were such that at
seventeen she was serving the empress as one of the ladies of the court.
Even at such a youthful age fame awaited her.
The beloved empress died suddenly
and Ryonen's hopeful dreams vanished. She became acutely aware of the
impermanency of life in this world. It was then that she desired to
Her relatives disagreed, however,
and practically forced her into marriage. With a promise that she might
become a nun aftr she had borne three children, Ryonen assented. Before
she was twenty-five she had accomplished this condition. Then her
husband and relatives could no longer dissuade her from her desire. She
shaved her head, took the name of Ryonen, which means to realize
clearly, and started on her pilgrimage.
She came to the city of Edo and
asked Tetsugya to accept her as a disciple. At one glance the master
rejected her because she was too beautiful.
Ryonen went to another master,
Hakuo. Hakuo refused her for the same reason, saying that her beauty
would only make trouble.
Ryonen obtained a hot iron and
placed it against her face. In a few moments her beauty had vanished
Hakuo then accepted her as a
Commemorating this occasion,
Ryonen wrote a poem on the back of a little mirror:
In the service of my Empress I
burned incense to perfume my exquisite clothes,
Now as a
homeless mendicant I burn my face to enter a Zen
When Ryonen was about to pass
from this world, she wrote another poem:
Sixty-six times have these eyes
beheld the changing scene of autumn.
I have said enough about
Ask no more.
Only listen to the voice
of pines and cedars when no wind stirs. ^
The cook monk Dairyo, at Bankei's
monastery, decided that he would take good care of his old teacher's
health and give him only fresh miso, a paste of soy beans mixed with
wheat and yeast that often ferments. Bankei, noticing that he was being
served better miso than his pupils, asked: "Who is the cook today?"
Dairyo was sent before him.
Bankei learned that according to his age and position he should eat only
fresh miso. So he said to the cook: "Then you think I shouldn't eat at
all." With this he entered his room and locked the door.
Dairyo, sitting outside the door,
asked his teacher's pardon. Bankei would not answer. For seven days
Dairyo sat outside and Bankei within.
Finally in desperation an
adherent called loudly to Bankei: "You may be all right, old teacher,
but this young disciple here has to eat. He cannot go without food
At that Bankei opened the door.
He was smiling. He told Dairyo: "I insist on eating the same food as the
least of my followers. Whe you become the teacher I do not want you to
forget this." ^
A student of Tendai, a
philosophical school of Buddhism, came to the Zen abode of Gasan as a
pupil. When he was departing a few years later, Gasan warned him:
"Studying the truth speculatively is useful as a way of collecting
preaching material. But remember that unless you meditate constantly you
light of truth may go out." ^
While Seietsu was the master of
Engaku in Kamakura he required larger quarters, since those in which he
was teaching were overcrowded. Umeza Seibei a merchant of Edo, decided
to donate five hundred pieces of gold called ryo toward the construction
of a more commodious school. This money he brought to the teacher.
Seisetsu said: "All right. I will
Umezu gave Seisetsu the sack of
gold, but he was dissatisfied with the attitude of the teacher. One
might live a whole year on three ryo, and the merchant had not even been
thanked for five hundred.
"In that sack are five hundred
ryo," hinted Umeza.
"You told me that before,"
"Even if I am a wealthy merchant,
five hundred ryo is a lot of money," said Umezu.
"Do you want me to thank you for
it?" asked Seisetsi.
"You ought to," replied Umeza.
"Why should I?" inquired
Seisetsu. "The giver should be thankful." ^
Ikkyu, a famous Zen teacher of
the Ashikaga era, was the son of the emperor. When he was very young,
his mother left the palace and went to study Zen in a temple. In this
way Prince Ikkyu also became a student. When this mother passed on, she
left him a letter. It read:
I have finished my work in this
life and am now returning into Eternity. I wish you to become a good
student and to realize your Buddha-nature. You will know if I am in hell
and whether I am always with you or not.
If you become a man who realizes
that the Buddha and his follower Bodhidharma are your own servants, you
may leave off studying and work for humanity. The Buddha preached for
forty-nine years and in all that time found it not necessary to speak
one word. You ought to know why. But if you don't and yet wish to, avoid
Not born, not dead.
P.S. The teaching of Buddha was
mainly for the purpose of enlightening others. If you are dependent on
any of its methods, you are naught but an ignorant insect. There are
80,000 books on Buddhism and if you should read all of them and still
not see your own nature, you will not understand even this letter. This
is my will and testament. ^
Taiko, a warrior who lived in
Japan before the Tokugawa era, studied Cha-no-yu, tea etiquette, with
Sen no Rikyu, a teacher of that aesthetical expression of calmness and
Taiko's attendant warrior Kato
interpreted his superior's enthusiasm for tea etiquette as negligence of
state affairs, so he decided to kill Sen no Rikyu. He pretended to make
a social call upon the tea-master and was invited to drink tea.
The master, who was well skilled
in his art, saw at a glance the warrior's intention, so he invited Kato
to leave his sword outside before entering the room for the ceremony,
explaining that Cha-no-yu represents peacefulness itself.
Kato would not listen to this. "I
am a warrior," he said. "I always have my sword with me. Cha-no-yu or no
Cha-no-yu, I have my sword."
"Very well. Bring your sword in
and have some tea," consented Sen no Rikyu.
The kettle was boiling on the
charcoal fire. Suddenly Sen no Rikyu tipped it over. Hissing steam
arose, filling the room with smoke and ashes. The startled warrior ran
The tea-master apologized. "It
was my mistake. Come back in and have some tea. I have your sword here
covered with ashes and will clean it and give it to you."
In this predicament the warrior
realized he could not very well kill the tea-master, so he gave up the
Just before Ninakawa passed away
the Zen master Ikkyu visited him. "Shall I lead you on?" Ikkyu asked.
Ninakawa replied: "I came here
alone and I go alone. What help could you be to me?"
Ikkyu answered: "If you think you
really come and go, that is your delusion. Let me show you the path on
which there is no coming and going."
With his words, Ikkyu had
revealed the path so clearly that Ninakawa smiled and passed away.
A soldier named Nobushige came to
Hakuin, and asked: "Is there really a paradise and a hell?"
"Who are you?" inquired Hakuin.
"I am a samurai," the warrior
"You, a soldier!" exclaimed
Hakuin. "What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face looks
like that of a beggar."
Nobushige became so angry that he
began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued: "So you have a sword!
Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head."
As Nobushige drew his sword
Hakuin remarked: "Here open the gates of hell!"
At these words the samurai,
perceiving the master's discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed.
"Here open the gates of
paradise," said Hakuin. ^
A merchant bearing fifty rolls of
cotton goods on his shoulders stopped to rest from the heat of the day
beneath a shelter where a large stone Buddha was standing. There he fell
asleep, and when he awoke his goods had disappeared. He immediately
reported the matter to the police.
A judge named O-oka opened court
to investigate. "That stone Buddha must have stolen the goods,"
concluded the judge. "He is supposed to care for the welfare of the
people, but he has failed to perform his holy duty. Arrest him."
The police arrested the stone
Buddha and carried it into the court. A noisy crowd followed the statue,
curious to learn what kind of sentence the judge was about to impose.
When O-oka appeared on the bench
he rebuked the boisterous audience. "What right have you people to
appear before the court laughing and joking in this manner? You are in
contempt of court and subject to a fine and imprisonment."
The people hastened to apologize.
"I shall have to impose a fine on you," said the judge, "but I will
remit it provided each one of you brings one roll of cotton goods to the
court within three days. Anyone failing to do this will be arrested."
One of the rolls of cloth which
the people brought was quickly recognized by the merchant as his own,
and thus the thief was easily discovered. The merchant recovered his
goods, and the cotton rolls were returned to the people. ^
Once a division of the Japanese
army was engaged in a sham battle, and some of the officers found it
necessary to make their headquarters in Gasan's temple.
Gasan told his cook: "Let the
officers have only the same simple fare we eat."
This made the army men angry, as
they wre used to very deferential treatment. One came to Gasan and said:
"Who do you think we are? We are soldiers, sacrificing our lives for our
country. Why don't you treat us accordingly?"
Gasan answered sternly: "Who do
you think we are? We are soldiers of humanity, aiming to save all
sentient beings." ^
Zenkai, the son of a samurai,
journeyed to Edo and there became the retainer of a high official. He
fell in love with the official's wife and was discovered. In
self-defence, he slew the official. Then he ran away with the wife.
Both of them later became
thieves. But the woman was so greedy that Zenkai grew disgusted.
Finally, leaving her, he journeyed far away to the province of Buzen,
where he became a wandering mendicant.
To atone for his past, Zenkai
resolved to accomplish some good deed in his lifetime. Knowing of a
dangerous road over a cliff that had caused death and injury to many
persons, he resolved to cut a tunnel through the mountain there.
Begging food in the daytime,
Zenkai worked at night digging his tunnel. When thirty years had gone
by, the tunnel was 2,280 feet long, 20 feet high, and 30 feet wide.
Two years before the work was
completed, the son of the official he had slain, who was a skillful
swordsman, found Zenkai out and came to kill him in revenge.
"I will gived you my life
willingly," said Zenkai. "Only let me finish this work. On the day it is
completed, then you may kill me."
So the son awaited the day.
Several months passed and Zenkai kept digging. The son grew tired of
doing nothing and began to help with the digging. After he had helped
for more than a year, he came to admire Zenkai's strong will and
At last the tunnel was completed
and the people could use it and travel safely.
"Now cut off my head," said
Zenkai. "My work is done."
"How can I cut off my own
teacher's head?" asked the younger man with tears in his eyes.
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Update : 01-12-2002