When the master was at the High Seat, a monk came forward and bowed. The master gave a Katsu.
The monk said, “Old Venerable, better not test me!”
The master replied, “Then you say it. Where does the Katsu fall?”
The monk gave a Katsu.
Wanting his state checked by the master, the monk came forward and bowed, which implies, “I know what the true-Self is. This is it. Do you know what I mean?” Master Rinzai responded to this with a Katsu, which means, “Of course, I know what you mean. Do you know what I mean with this Katsu?” Then, the monk counterattacked beautifully with ‘Old Venerable, better not test me’, which means, “I know what you mean with a Katsu.” At this, by asking the monk where the Katsu falls, the master threw a tempting question in order to check whether the monk was deluded by words or not as if to cast a net to catch fish. However, the monk escaped the net nimbly by giving a Katsu.
Once Mazu, seeing snow falling, said, “Of all the snowflakes, not a single flake falls out of it.” This has been a well-known koan among Zen practitioners ever since. The key point of this comment is ‘Where in the world do the snowflakes fall if not falling out of it? Interpreted literally, all the snowflakes fall within it. Where is it?’ ‘It’ here means the true-Self. Mazu meant, “All the snowflakes fall in the true-Self. Do you know the true-Self?” Likewise, Rinzai asked the monk if he knew that the Katsu falls within the true-Self, that is, the Katsu is the function of the true-Self. The monk revealed the true-Self by shouting a Katsu as an answer, which is saying, “It falls here.”
Student: “You say that the Katsu falls here. I still don’t know where you mean by here.”
Master: “Where are we now?”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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