Fuke always used to roam about in the street markets, ringing a bell and shouting, “When it comes in brightness, I hit it with brightness. When it approaches in darkness, I hit it with darkness. When it comes from all directions, I hit it like a whirlwind, and if it comes out of the empty sky, I thrash it like a flail.” Master Rinzai made one of his attendants go there, instructing him to grab Fuke while speaking and ask him, “If it does not come in any of these ways, what then?” When he did as he was told to, Fuke freed himself from the grasp of the attendant and said, “Tomorrow there is a vegetarian banquet in the monastery of Great Compassion.” The attendant returned and told Rinzai, who remarked, “I have always been doubtful of this fellow.”
Fuke’s unusual behaviour was an expedient to attract people’s concerns toward Buddhism and Zen. To rephrase his words, he meant, “The true-Self appears in countless forms such as brightness, and darkness, everywhere in all directions, even out of the empty sky. However, I know that they are all the functions of the true-Self and I am not deluded by them. When it comes in brightness, I know that brightness is the shape of the true-Self. In whatever forms it may come, I am never deluded by them but see them as the same as the true-Self.” Rinzai tested Fuke by getting one of his attendants to ask him, “If it does not come in any of these ways, what then?” Through this question Rinzai asked Fuke, “What is the true-Self like, that is, what form does it take on when it doesn’t appear in the forms that you narrated?” Fuke demonstrated how it appears otherwise by saying, “Tomorrow there is a vegetarian banquet in the monastery of Great Compassion.” When Rinzai was told about Fuke’s response by his attendant, he said that he had been doubtful of Fuke, which may sound as if he didn’t approve Fuke’s enlightenment, but he actually approved it. Rinzai used the distorted expression to see if his attendant could recognise the true-Self without being deluded by his distorted words.
Student: “How would you have answered Rinzai’s question ‘If it does not come in any of these ways, what then?’ if you had been in Fuke’s shoes?”
Master: “I would have said, ‘I don’t respond in any of these ways’.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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