One day the Rinzai and Fuke went to a vegetarian banquet given to them by a believer. During the meal, the master asked Fuke, “‘A hair swallows the vast ocean, a mustard seed contains Mt. Sumeru’ – does this happen by means of supernatural powers, or is the essence like this?” Fuke kicked over the table. The master said, “Rough fellow.” Fuke retorted, “What place is this here to speak of rough and refined?” The next day, they went again to a vegetarian banquet. During that meal, the master asked, “Today’s fare, how does it compare with yesterday’s?” Fuke kicked over the table again. The master said, “Understand it you do – but still, you are a rough fellow.” Fuke replied, “Blind fellow, does one preach of any roughness or finesse in the Buddha-Dharma?” The master clicked his tongue.
In order to understand Fuke’s answer to Rinzai’s question, we should know the core meaning of Rinzai’s question above all. To rephrase Rinzai’s question, when everything is empty, not only a hair and the vast ocean but a mustard seed and Mt. Sumeru are also empty. When all of them are empty, there is no difference among them whatsoever. Rinzai asked Fuke if he knew this principle. Fuke answered by kicking over the table, which means ‘My kicking over this table is not different from a hair swallowing the vast ocean and a mustard seed containing Mt. Sumeru’. When there is no difference between a hair and the vast ocean, there cannot be any difference between being rough and being refined since all of them are just illusions.
In the realm of Emptiness, the true-Self, everything is empty and there is no concept of time such as yesterday and today. More strictly speaking, there is not only no one who can compare things but also nothing to compare. That is, there is nothing but the true-Self, Emptiness. Fuke meant, “Whatever you say and whatever happens are all the function of the true-Self” by revealing the true-Self through kicking over the table. When Rinzai responded, “You are a rough fellow” in order to test whether Fuke would be deluded by his words, Fuke nicely countered, “Blind fellow, does one preach of any roughness or finesse in the Buddha-Dharma?” Rinzai approved his answer by clicking his tongue.
Student: “Why did Fuke always kick over the table when he was questioned by Rinzai?”
Master: “In order to show what cannot be kicked over.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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