One day master Rinzai and the two old teachers Kayo and Mokuto were sitting in the hearth pit of the meditation hall. Rinzai remarked, “Every day Fuke plays the fool in the street markets. Does anyone know whether he is a vulgar fellow or a sage?” Before he had finished speaking, Fuke came in. Rinzai asked him, “Are you a vulgar fellow or a sage?” Fuke replied, “Say it yourself whether I am a vulgar fellow or a sage.” Rinzai gave a Katsu. Fuke, indicating each with his pointing finger, said, “Kajo’s the Zen of the newlywed bride, Mokuto’s grandmotherly Zen, and yet little boy Rinzai’s equipped with the single eye.” Rinzai remarked, “This robber.” Fuke left, shouting, “Robber, robber.”
Rinzai seemed to present the two old masters Kayo and Mokuto with a question ‘Every day Fuke plays the fool in the street markets. Does anyone know whether he is a vulgar fellow or a sage?’ with the aim of getting them to share their views of the Dharma. To interpret Rinzai’s question, he meant, “Do you know what Fuke’s essence of being is when he plays the fool in the street markets?”
Anyway, just then, as Fuke came in before Rinzai had finished speaking, Rinzai asked the question of Fuke directly, “Are you a vulgar fellow or a sage?” Fuke lost no time in responding beautifully, “Say it yourself whether I am a vulgar fellow or a sage.” He revealed the essence of his being by asking back, “Say it yourself whether I am a vulgar fellow or a sage”, which means, “Ok, I am showing you the essence of my being in this way since it cannot be described with words. Can you recognise me? If you are enlightened, you can recognise me. Tell me how I look to you.” Rinzai responded to Fuke’s request ‘Tell me how I look to you’ by giving a Katsu, which meant, ‘This is how you look’.
Fuke’s remark ‘Kajo’s the Zen of the newlywed bride, Mokuto’s grandmotherly Zen, and yet little boy Rinzai’s equipped with the single eye’ didn’t mean to either belittle, or compare them, but meant to respond to Rinzai’s Katsu. Furthermore, ‘Rinzai is equipped with the single eye’ implies that Rinzai attained enlightenment since the single eye symbolises the eye of wisdom that can see everything as it really is. So, Fuke meant “I know that Rinzai is enlightened and what he means with a Katsu.” Rinzai also approved Fuke’s enlightenment by calling him a robber since a thief, or a robber, implies an enlightened man because he is thought to have attained the whole universe for nothing.
Student: “If you had been one of the two old masters, how would you have answered Rinzai’s question?”
Master: “A sage is a sage only to one who can recognise him.”
Student: “How would you have responded to Rinzai’s question if you had been in Fuke’s shoes?”
Master: “A precious pearl is not a precious pearl to a pig.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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