(The Gateless Gate )
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a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university
professor who came to inquire about Zen.
served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on pouring.
professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself.
"It is overfull. No more will go in!"
this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and
speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"
was the emperor's teacher of his time. Nevertheless, he used to travel
alone as a wandering mendicant. Once when he was on his was to Edo, the
cultural and political center of the shogunate, he approached a little
village named Takenaka. It was evening and a heavy rain was falling. Gudo
was thoroughly wet. His straw sandals were in pieces. At a farmhouse near
the village he noticed four or five pairs of sandals in the window and
decided to buy some dry ones.
woman who offered him the sandals, seeing how wet he was, invited him in
to remain for the night at her home. Gudo accepted, thanking her. He
entered and recited a sutra before the family shrine. He then was
introduced to the woman's mother, and to her children. Observing that the
entire family was depressed, Gudo asked what was wrong.
husband is a gambler and a drunkard," the housewife told him. "When he
happens to win he drinks and becomes abusive. When he loses he borrows
money from others. Sometimes when he becomes thoroughly drunk he does not
come home at all. What can I do?"
help him," said Gudo. "Here is some money. Get me a gallon of fine wine
and something good to eat. Then you may retire. I will meditate before the
the man of the house returned about midnight, quite drunk, he bellowed:
"Hey, wife, I am home. Have you something for me to eat?"
something for you," said Gudo. "I happened to get caught in the rain and
your wife kindly asked me to remain here for the night. In return I have
bought some wine and fish, so you might as well have them."
was delighted. He drank the wine at once and laid himself down on the
floor. Gudo sat in meditation beside him.
morning when the husband awoke he had forgotten about the previous night.
"Who are you? Where do you come from?" he asked Gudo, who still was
Gudo of Kyoto and I am going on to Edo," replied the Zen master.
was utterly ashamed. He apologized profusely to the teacher of his
smiled. "Everything in this life is impermanent," he explained. "Life is
very brief. If you keep on gambling and drinking, you will have no time
left to accomplish anything else, and you will cause your family to suffer
perception of the husband awoke as if from a dream. "You are right," he
declared. "How can I ever repay you for this wonderful teaching! Let me
see you off and carry your things a little way."
wish," assented Gudo.
started out. After they had gone three miles Gudo told him to return.
"Just another five miles," he begged Gudo. They continued on.
may return now," suggested Gudo.
another ten miles," the man replied.
now," said Gudo, when the ten miles had been passed.
going to follow you all the rest of my life," declared the man.
Zen teachers in Japan spring from the lineage of a famous master who was
the successor of Gudo. His name was Mu-nan, the man who never turned back.
master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.
beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him.
Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.
made her parents very angry. She would not confess who the man was, but
after much harassment at last named Hakuin.
great anger the parents went to the master. "Is that so?" was all he would
the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his
reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the
child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and everything else the little
later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the
truth - that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in
mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his
forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back again.
was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: "Is that so?"
master Bankei's talks were attended not only by Zen students but by
persons of all ranks and sects. He never quoted sutras nor indulged in
scholastic dissertations. Instead, his words were spoken directly from his
heart to the hearts of his listeners.
large audiences angered a priest of the Nichiren sect because the
adherents had left to hear about Zen. The self-centered Nichiren priest
came to the temple, determined to debate with Bankei.
Zen teacher!" he called out. "Wait a minute. Whoever respects you will
obey what you say, but a man like myself does not respect you. Can you
make me obey you?"
up beside me and I will show you," said Bankei.
the priest pushed his way through the crowd to the teacher.
smiled. "Come over to my left side."
said Bankei, "we may talk better if you are on the right side. Step over
priest proudly stepped over to the right
see," observed Bankei, "you are obeying me and I think you are a very
gentle person. Now sit down and listen."
monks and one nun, who was named Eshun, were practicing meditation with a
certain Zen master.
was very pretty even though her head was shaved and her dress plain.
Several monks secretly fell in love with her. One of them wrote her a love
letter, insisting upon a private meeting.
did not reply. The following day the master gave a lecture to the group,
and when it was over, Eshun arose. Addressing the one who had written her,
she said: "If you really love me so much, come and embrace me now."
was an old woman in China who had supported a monk for over twenty years.
She had built a little hut for him and fed him while he was meditating.
Finally she wondered just what progress he had made in all this time.
out, she obtained the help of a girl rich in desire. "Go and embrace him,"
she told her, "and then ask him suddenly: 'What now?'"
girl called upon the monk and without much ado caressed him, asking him
what he was going to do about it.
tree grows on a cold rock in winter," replied the monk somewhat
poetically. "Nowhere is there any warmth."
girl returned and related what he had said.
think I fed that fellow for twenty years!" exclaimed the old woman in
anger. "He showed no consideration for your need, no disposition to
explain your condition. He need not have responded to passion, but at
least he could have evidenced some compassion;"
once went to the hut of the monk and burned it down.
Tanzan wrote sixty postal cards on the last day of his life, and asked an
attendant to mail them. Then he passed away.
The cards read:
I am departing from this world.
This is my last announcement.
July 27, 1892
early days of the Meiji era there lived a well-known wrestler called
O-nami, Great Waves.
was immensly strong and knew the art of wresting. In his private bouts he
defeated even his teacher, but in public was so bashful that his own
pupils threw him.
felt he should go to a Zen master for help. Hakuju, a wandering teacher,
was stopping in a little temple nearby, so O-nami went to see him and told
him of his great trouble.
Waves is your name," the teacher advised, "so stay in this temple tonight.
Imagine that you are those billows. You are no longer a wrestler who is
afraid. You are those huge waves sweeping everything before them,
swallowing all in their path. Do this and you will be the greatest
wrestler in the land."
teacher retired. O-nami sat in meditation trying to imagine himself as
waves. He thought of many different things. Then gradualy he turned more
and more to the feeling of waves. As the night advanced the waves became
larger and larger. They swept away the flowers in their vases. Even the
Buddha in the shrine was inundated. Before dawn the temple was nothing but
the ebb and flow of an immense sea.
morning the teacher found O-nami meditating, a faint smile on his face. He
patted the wrestler's shoulder. "Now nothing can disturb you," he said.
"You are those waves. You will sweep everything before you."
same day O-nami entered the wrestling contests and won. After that, no one
in Japan was able to defeat him.
a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot
of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there
was nothing in it to steal.
returned and caught him. "You may have come a long way to visit me," he
told the prowler, "and you shoud not return emptyhanded. Please take my
clothes as a gift."
thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.
sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow, " he mused, "I wish I could
give him this beautiful moon."
master Hoshin lived in China many years. Then he returned to the
northeastern part of Japan, where he taught his disciples. When he was
getting very old, he told them a story he had heard in China. This is the
year on the twenty-fifth of December, Tokufu, who was very old, said to
his disciples: "I am not going to be alive next year so you fellows should
treat me well this year."
pupils thought he was joking, but since he was a great-hearted teacher
each of them in turn treated him to a feast on succeeding days of the
eve of the new year, Tokufu concluded: "You have been good to me. I shall
leave you tomorrow afternoon when the snow has stopped."
disciples laughed, thinking he was aging and talking nonsense since the
night was clear and without snow. But at midnight snow began to fall, and
the next day they did not find their teacher about. They went to the
meditation hall. There he had passed on.
who related this story, told his disciples: "It is not necessary for a Zen
master to predict his passing, but if he really wishes to do so, he can."
you?" someone asked.
answered Hoshin. "I will show you what I can do seven days from now."
the disciples believed him, and most of them had even forgotten the
conversation when Hoshin next called them together.
days ago," he remarked, "I said I was going to leave you. It is customary
to write a farewell poem, but I am neither poet nor calligrapher. Let one
of you inscribe my last words."
followers thought he was joking, but one of them started to write.
you ready?" Hoshin asked.
sir," replied the writer.
came from brilliancy.
And return to brilliancy.
What is this?
poem was one line short of the customary four, so the disciple said:
"Master, we are one line short."
with the roar of a conquoring lion, shouted "Kaa!" and was gone.
exquisite Shunkai whose other name was Suzu was compelled to marry against
her wishes when she was quite young. Later, after this marriage had ended,
she attended the university, where she studied philosophy.
Shunkai was to fall in love with her. Moreover, wherever she went, she
herself fell in love with others. Love was with her at the university, and
afterwards, when philosophy did not satisfy her and she visited a temple
to learn about Zen, the Zen students fell in love with her. Shunkai's
whole life was saturated with love.
in Kyoto she became a real student of Zen. Her brothers in the sub-temple
of Kennin praised her sincerity. One of them proved to be a congenial
spirit and assisted her in the mastery of Zen.
abbot of Kennin, Mokurai, Silent Thunder, was severe. He kept the precepts
himself and expected his priests to do so. In modern Japan whatever zeal
these priests have lost of Buddhism they seem to have gained for their
wives. Mokurai used to take a broom and chase the women away when he found
them in any of his temples, but the more wives he swept out, the more
seemed to come back.
particular temple the wife of the head priest became jealous of Shunkai's
earnestness and beauty. Hearing the students praise her serious Zen made
this wife squirm and itch. Finally she spread a rumor about Shunkai and
the young man who was her friend. As a consequence he was expelled and
Shunkai was removed from the temple.
have made the mistake of love," thought Shunkai, "but the priest's wife
shall not remain in the temple either if my friend is to be treated so
the same night with a can of kerosene set fire to the
five-hundred-year-old temple and burned it to the ground. In the morning
she found herself in the hands of the police.
lawyer became interested in her and endeavored to make her sentence
lighter. "Do not help me," she told him. "I might decide to do something
else which would only imprison me again."
a sentence of seven years was completed, and Shunkai was released from the
prison, where the sixty-year-old warden had become enamored of her.
everyone looked upon her as a "jailbird." No one would associate with her.
Even the Zen people, who are supposed to believe in enlightenment in this
life and with this body, shunned her. Zen, Shunkai found, was one thing
and the followers of Zen quite another. Her relatives would have nothing
to do with her. She grew sick, poor, and weak.
a Shinshu priest who taught her the name of the Buddha of Love, and in
this Shunkai found some solace and peace of mind. She passed away when she
was still exquisitely beautiful and hardly thirty years old.
wrote her own story in a futile endeavor to support herself and some of it
she told to a woman writer. So it reached the Japanese people. Those who
rejected Shunkai, those who slandered and hated her, now read of her live
with tears of remorse.
walking about Chinatowns in America will observe statues of a stout fellow
carrying a linen sack. Chinese merchants call him Happy Chinaman or
Hotei lived in the T'ang dynasty. He had no desire to call himself a Zen
master or to gather many disciples around him. Instead he walked the
streets with a big sack into which he would put gifts of candy, fruit, or
doughnuts. These he would give to children who gathered around him in
play. He established a kindergarten of the streets.
Whenever he met a Zen devotee he would extend his hand and say: "Give me
he was about to play-work another Zen master happened along and inquired:
"What is the significance of Zen?"
immediately plopped his sack down on the ground in silent answer.
asked the other, "what is the actualization of Zen?"
the Happy Chinaman swung the sack over his shoulder and continued on his
Tokyo in the Meiji era there lived two prominent teachers of opposite
characteristics. One, Unsho, an instructor in Shingon, kept Buddha's
precepts scrupulously. He never drank intoxicants, nor did he eat after
eleven o'clock in the morning. The other teacher, Tanzan, a professor of
philosophy at the Imperial University, never observed the precepts. When
he felt like eating, he ate, and when he felt like sleeping in the
daytime, he slept.
Unsho visited Tanzan, who was drinking wine at the time, not even a drop
of which is supposed to touch the tongue of a Buddhist.
brother," Tanzan greeted him. "Won't you have a drink?"
never drink!" exclaimed Unsho solemnly.
who does not drink is not even human," said Tanzan.
mean to call me inhuman just because I do not indulge in intoxicating
liquids!" exclaimed Unsho in anger. "Then if I am not human, what am I?"
Buddha," answered Tanzan.
and Ekido were once travelling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain
was still falling.
around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to
cross the intersection.
on, girl," said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her
over the mud.
did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple.
Then he no longer could restrain himself. "We monks don't do near
females," he told Tanzan, "especially not young and lovely ones. It is
dangerous. Why did you do that?"
the girl there," said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?"
became a teacher of Soto Zen. When he was still a student his father
passed away, leaving him to care for his old mother.
Whenever Shoun went to a meditation hall he always took his mother with
him. Since she accompanied him, when he visited monasteries he could not
live with the monks. So he would build a little house and care for her
there. He would copy sutras, Buddhist verses, and in this manner receive a
few coins for food.
Shoun bought fish for his mother, the people would scoff at him, for a
monk is not supposed to eat fish. But Shoun did not mind. His mother,
however, was hurt to see the others laugh at her son. Finally she told
Shoun: "I think I will become a nun. I can be a vegaterian too." She did,
and they studied together.
was fond of music and was a master of the harp, which his mother also
played. On full-moon nights they used to play together.
night a young lady passed by their house and heard music. Deeply touched,
she invited Shoun to visit her the next evening and play. He accepted the
invitation. A few days later he met the young lady on the street and
thanked her for her hospitality. Others laughed at him. He had visited the
house of a woman of the streets.
Shoun left for a distant temple to deliver a lecture. A few months
afterwards he returned home to find his mother dead. Friends had not known
where to reach him, so the funeral was then in progress.
walked up and hit the coffin with his staff. "Mother, your son has
returned," he said.
glad to see you have returned, son," he answered for his mother.
am glad too," Shoun responded. Then he announced to the people about him:
"The funeral ceremony is over. You may bury the body."
Shoun was old he knew his end was approaching. He asked his disciples to
gather around him in the morning, telling them he was going to pass on at
noon. Burning incense before the picture of his mother and his old
teacher, he wrote a poem:
fifty-six years I lived as best I could,
Making my way in this world.
Now the rain has ended, the clouds are clearing,
The blue sky has a full moon.
disciples gathered about him, reciting a sutra, and Shoun passed on during
university student while visiting Gasan asked him: "Have you even read the
read it to me," said Gasan.
student opened the Bible and read from St. Matthew: "And why take ye
thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They
toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon
in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these...Take therefore no
thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things
said: "Whoever uttered those words I consider and enlightened man."
student continued reading: "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye
shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that
asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh,
is shall be opened."
remarked: "That is excellent. Whoever said that is not far from
physician in Tokyo named Kusuda met a college friend who had been studying
Zen. The young doctor asked him what Zen was.
cannot tell you what it is," the friend replied, "but one thing is
certain. If you understand Zen, you will not be afraid to die."
fine," said Kusuda. "I will try it. Where can I find a teacher?"
the master Nan-in," the friend told him.
Kusuda went to call on Nan-in. He carried a dagger nine and a half inches
long to determine whether or not the teacher was afraid to die.
Nan-in saw Kusuda he exclaimed: "Hello, friend. How are you? We haven't
seen each other for a long time!"
perplexed Kusuda, who replied: "We have never met before."
right," answered Nan-in. "I mistook you for another physician who is
receiving instruction here."
such a beginning, Kusuda lost his chance to test the master, so
reluctantly he asked if he might receive Zen instruction.
said: "Zen is not a difficult task. If you are a physician, treat you
patients with kindness. That is Zen."
visited Nan-in three times. Each time Nan-in told him the same thing. "A
physician should not waste time around here. Go home and take care of you
not yet clear to Kusuda how such teaching could remove the fear of death.
So on his fourth visit he complained: "My friend told me when one learns
Zen one loses the fear of death. Each time I come here all you tell me is
to take care of my patients. I know that much. If that is your so-called
Zen, I am not going to visit you any more."
smiled and patted the doctor. "I have been too strict with you. Let me
give you a koan." He presented Kusuda with Joshu's Mu to work over, which
is the first mind enlightening problem in the book called The Gateless
pondered this problem of Mu (No-Thing) for two years. At length he thought
he had reached certainty of mind. But his teacher commented: "You are not
continued in concentration for another year and a half. His mind became
placid. Problems dissolved. No-Thing became the truth. He served his
patients well and, without even knowing it, he was free from concern over
life and death.
when he visited Nan-in, his old teacher just smiled.
told a parable in a sutra:
traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after
him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and
swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above.
Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was
waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.
mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the
vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with
one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!
one goes to Obaku temple in Kyoto he sees carved over the gate the words
"The First Principle". The letters are unusually large, and those who
appreciate calligraphy always admire them as being a mastepiece. They were
drawn by Kosen two hundred years ago.
the master drew them he did so on paper, from which the workmen made the
large carving in wood. As Kosen sketched the letters a bold pupil was with
him who had made several gallons of ink for the calligraphy and who never
failed to criticise his master's work.
is not good," he told Kosen after his first effort.
is this one?"
"Poor. Worse than before," pronounced the pupil.
Kosen patiently wrote one sheet after another until
eighty-four First Principles had accumulated, still without the approval
of the puil.
Then when the young man
stepped outside for a few moments, Kosen thought: "Now this is my chance
to escape his keen eye," and he wrote hurriedly, with a mind free from
distraction: "The First Principle."
pronounced the pupil.
Shogun master, was a well-known Sanskrit scholar of the Tokugawa era. When
he was young he used to deliver lectures to his brother students.
mother heard about this and wrote him a letter.:
do not think you became a devotee of the Buddha because you desired to
turn into a walking dictionary for others. There is no end to information
and commentation, glory and honor. I wish you would stop this lecture
business. Shut yourself up in a little temple in a remote part of the
mountain. Devote your time to meditation and in this way attain true
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Update : 01-12-2002