Moss-covered Monk

Moss-covered Monk


Thursday, November 8, 2012

A History of Samurai and Zen (6)


Samurai encountered death, as is well known, with unflinching courage. He
would never turn back when confronting his enemy. To be called a coward
was for him the dishonor worse than death itself. An incident about Tsu
Yuen (Sogen), who came over to Japan in 1280, being invited by Tokimune
(Hojo), the Regent General, well illustrates how much Zen monks
resembled our Samurais. The event happened when he was in China, where
the invading army of Yuen spread terror all over the country. Some of the
barbarians, who crossed the border of the State of Wan, broke into the
monastery of Tsu Yuen, and threatened at front of him. Then calmly sitting
down, ready to meet his fate, he composed the following verses:

 "The heaven and earth afford me no shelter at all;

I'm glad, unreal are body and soul. Welcome thy weapon, O warrior of
Yuen! Thy trusty steel, That flashes lightning, cuts the wind of Spring, I

This reminds us of Sang Chao (Sojo), who, on the verge of death by the
vagabond's sword, expressed his feelings in the follow lines:

"In body there exists no soul. The mind is not real at all. Now try on me thy
flashing steel, As if it cuts the wind of Spring, I feel."

The barbarians, moved by this calm resolution and dignified air of Tsu
Yuen, rightly supposed him to be no ordinary personage, and left the
monastery, doing no harm to him.


No wonder, that the representatives of the Samurai class, the Regent
Generals, especially such rulers as Tokiyori, Tokimune, and others noted
for their good administration, of the Hojo period (1205-1332) greatly
favored Zen.

They not only patronized the faith, building great temples and inviting best
Chinese Zen teachers, but also lived just as Zen monks, having the head
shaven, wearing a holy robe, and practising crosslegged Meditation.
Tokiyori (1247-1263), for instance, who entered the monastic life while be
was still the real governor of the country, led as simple a life, as is shown in
his verse, which ran as follows:

"Higher than its bank the rivulet flows; Greener than moss tiny grass grows.

No one call at my humble cottage on the rock, But the gate by itself opens
to the Wind's knock."

Tokiyori attained to enlightenment by the instruction of Dogen and Doryu,
and breathed his last calmly sitting crosslegged, and expressing his feelings
in the following lines:

"Thirty-seven of years, Karma mirror stood high; Now I break it to pieces,
Path of Great is then night."

His successor, Tokimune (1264-1283), a bold statesman and soldier, was
no less of a devoted believer in Zen. Twice he beheaded the envoys sent by
the great Chinese conqueror, Kublai, who demanded Japan should either
surrender or be trodden under his foot. And when the alarming news of the
Chinese Armada's approaching the land reached him, he is said to have
called on his tutor, Tsu Yuen, to receive the last instruction.

"Now, reverend sir," he said " An imminent peril threatens the land." "How
art is going to encounter it ? " asked the master. Then Tokimune burst into a
thundering Ka with all his might to show his undaunted spirit in
encountering the approaching enemy. "O, the lion's roar!" said Tsu Yuen.

"The art of genuine lion. Go, and never turn back." Thus encouraged by the
teacher, the Regent General sent out the defending army, and successfully
rescued the state from the mouth of destruction, gaining a splendid victory
over the invaders, almost all of whom perished in the western seas.

~Kaiten Nukariya