Rinzai 185

Then, Rinzai asked his senior attendant who was waiting on him, “Was there a fault or not?” The attendant said, “There was.” Rinzai said, “Was the fault with the guest or with the host?” The attendant said, “Both were at fault.” Rinzai asked what the fault was. At that, the attendant left. Rinzai remarked, “Better not say there is no work.” Later on, a monk related the above to Nanzen, who commented, “Two fine horses hit and trampled each other.”


In fact, Rinzai tested his senior attendant with the same pattern of question the old monk had used; the alternative of a fault or not. The attendant made a wise answer to Rinzai’s question by saying, “There was”, which didn’t mean that there was a fault but just revealed the true-Self in the same way that Rinzai had done by giving a Katsu to the old monk. In order to test the attendant a little further, Rinzai raised another question ‘Was the fault with the guest or with the host?’. This was a very crafty question that could entice the attendant into clinging to words, because although Rinzai pretended to ask about the old monk and himself by using the words ‘guest’ and ‘host’, he actually meant forms and Emptiness, the true-Self. To rephrase Rinzai’s question, he meant, “Do you know Emptiness, the true-Self from forms in the conversation and acts that I exchanged with the old monk? The attendant, knowing better than to be deceived by the trick, responded by saying, “Both were at fault.” He might seem to have said that both Rinzai and the old monk were wrong, but he meant, “What I am showing to you by giving my answer is not different from what you and the old monk showed to each other.” Rinzai asked him once more what he meant by the answer ‘Both were at fault’. The attendant also showed the true-Self yet again by leaving Rinzai. ‘Better not to say that there is no work’ means that the short dialogue and acts traded between the attendant and him were not merely worthless wordplay but rather showed the core of Buddhism.

Nanzen’s comment ‘Two fine horses hit and trampled each other’ implies two things; approving two people’s enlightenment and revealing the true-Self, by which he meant, “My act of answering your question is essentially not different from what Rinzai and his attendant revealed to each other.”

Student: “What did Rinzai and his attendant reveal to each other?”

Master: “You and I are revealing it to each other, too.”

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

#zen #meditation #zenmeditation #enlightened #enlightenment #zenfools #photography

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