Rinzai asked a monk, “Where do you come from?” The monk gave a Katsu. The master made a polite bow with his hands in front and told him to sit down. The monk hesitated – then the master hit him. The master saw a monk coming. He raised his fly whisk. The monk bowed – the master hit him. Again, he saw a monk coming and again raised his fly whisk. The monk pretended not to see him. The master hit him.
When Rinzai tested if the monk knew the true-Self by asking, “Where do you come from?” the monk passed the first test and responded properly by revealing the true-Self through giving a Katsu. However, he couldn’t pass the more sophisticated test that Rinzai posed by inviting him to sit down whilst politely showing courtesy. When the monk was at a loss for words, Rinzai hit him as an answer and as punishment for failing to answer at the same time.
Seeing a monk coming, Rinzai tested if he knew the true-Self by raising his fly whisk. The monk answered the question by offering a bow, and Rinzai responded by hitting him. Seeing another monk coming, Rinzai tested whether he knew the true-Self by raising his fly whisk as well. The monk responded to Rinzai’s action by pretending not to see him, which was not different from offering a bow. Rinzai also responded by hitting him. It is not certain whether Rinzai approved the second and third monks by hitting them or not. What matters here is that we should grasp the meaning of Rinzai’s hitting the monks.
Student: “Why did Rinzai always respond by hitting monastics?”
Master: “Because you only saw him hitting them.”
Student: “Were the second and third monks enlightened?”
Master: “It depends on you.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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