Followers of the Way, when from everywhere students come to inquire, host and guest are clearly distinguished. A phrase is uttered to test the teacher he has before him. For example, the student devises a weighty sentence and then facing the corner of the teacher’s mouth, shouts out: “Do you know that or not?” If the teacher recognises it as a trap, he grabs it, throws it into a pit and buries it there.
The student then reverts to normal and asks for the teacher’s instruction. The teacher still doesn’t approve his words, and the student says: “What superior wisdom, what a truly great teacher.” The teacher just says: “You really do not know what is good and bad.”
This part shows how masters treat monastics who come to them for teaching. ‘When from everywhere students come to inquire, host and guest are clearly distinguished’ implies that Rinzai himself clearly knows what the students’ problems are, no matter where they are from and no matter what questions they have.
And he also can distinguish a good teacher from a poor one and a good student from a poor one by seeing them exchange words. For example, when a student raises the question ‘Do you know that or not?’ to a teacher, if the teacher, seeing through the student’s intention, responds with correct words that can be both an answer and a question at the same time, the student, at a loss for a suitable answer, usually says, “Forgive me my rudeness. Please, give me a teaching.” Then, the teacher makes a sarcastic remark about the student’s apologetic words in order to check his practice. The student, conceding once more that he cannot outsmart the teacher, admires him, “What superior wisdom, what a truly great teacher.” The teacher, then, gives him a final teaching by saying, “You really do not know what is good and bad”, which means ‘Why don’t you recognise my teaching while I keep giving you my teaching? You still can’t tell illusions from the true-Self.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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