Moss-covered Monk

Moss-covered Monk


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A History of Samurai and Zen (5)


Thirdly, both the Zen monk and the Samurai were distinguished by their
manliness and dignity in manner, sometimes amounting to rudeness. This is
due partly to the hard discipline that they underwent, and partly to the mode
of instruction. The following story, translated by Mr. D. Suzuki, may well
exemplify our statement:

When Rinzai was assiduously applying himself to Zen discipline under
Obak (Huang Po in Chinese, who died 850), the head monk recognized his
genius. One day the monk asked him how long he had been in the
monastery, to which Rinzai replied: 'Three years.' The elder said: 'Have you
ever approached the master and asked his instruction in Buddhism ?'

Rinzai said: 'I have never done this, for I did not know what to ask.' 'Why,
you might go to the master and ask him what is the essence of Buddhism?'
Rinzai, according to this advice, approached Obak and repeated the
question, but before he finished the master gave him a slap.

When Rinzai came back, the elder asked how the interview went, said
Rinzai: 'Before I could finish my question, the master slapped me but I fail
to grasp its meaning.' The elder said: 'You go to him again and ask the same
question.' When he did so, he received the same response from the master.
But Rinzai was urged again to try it for the third time, but the outcome did
not improve.

At last he went to the elder, and said:

" In obedience to your kind suggestion, I have repeated my question three
times, and been slapped three times. I deeply regret that, owing to my
stupidity, I am unable to comprehend the hidden meaning of all this. I shall
leave this place and go somewhere else." The elder said: "If you wish to
depart, do not fail to go and see the master to say him farewell."

"Immediately after this the elder saw the master, and said: " That young
novice, who asked about Buddhism three times, is a remarkable fellow.

When he comes to take leave of you, be so gracious as to direct him

After a hard training, he will prove to be a great master,and, like a huge
tree, he will give a refreshing shelter to the world."

When Rinzai came to see the master, he advised him not to go anywhere
else but to Daigu (Taiyu) of Kaoan, where Rinzai would be able to get
instruct him in the faith.

Rinzai went to Daigu, who asked him where he came. Being informed that
he was from Obak, Daigu further inquired what instruction he had got
under the master. Rinzai answered: 'I asked him three times about the
essence of Buddhism, and he slapped me three times. But I am yet unable to
see whether I had any fault or not.' Daigu said: 'Obak was tenderhearted
even as a dotard, and you are not warranted at all to come over here and ask
me whether anything was faulty with you.'

Being thus reprimanded, the signification of the whole affair suddenly
dawned upon the mind of Rinzai, and he exclaimed: 'There is not much,
after all, in the Buddhism of Obak.'

Whereupon Daigu took hold of him, and said: 'This ghostly good for
nothing creature! A few minutes ago you came to me and complainingly
asked what was wrong with you, and now boldly declare that there is not
much in the Buddhism of Obak. What is the reason of all this? Speak out
quick! speak out quick!'

In response to this, Rinzai softly struck three times
his fist at the ribs of Daigu. The latter then released him, saying: 'Your
teacher is Obak, and I will have nothing to do with you.'
Rinzai took leave of Daigu and came back to Obak, who, on seeing him
come, exclaimed: 'Foolish fellow! what does it avail you to come and go all
the time like this?' Rinzai said: 'It is all due to your doting kindness.'

When, after the usual salutation, Rinzai stood by the side of Obak, the latter
asked him whence he had come this time. Rinzai answered:

"In obedience to your kind instruction, I was with Daigu. Thence am I

And he related, being asked for further information, all that had happened

Obak said: 'As soon as that fellow shows himself up here, I shall have to
give him a good thrashing.' 'You need not wait for him to come; have it
right this moment,' was the reply; and with this Rinzai gave his master a
slap on the back.

"Obak said: 'How dares this lunatic come into my presence and play with a
tiger's whiskers?' Rinzai then burst out into a Ho, and Obak said:

'Attendant, come and carry this lunatic away to his cell.'"

~Kaiten Nukariya