One day Rinzai asked the head monk, “Where are you coming from?” The head monk said, “I have just returned from the prefecture where I sold rice.” The master asked, “Did you sell the lot?” The head monk said, “Yes, all of it.” The master drew a line before him with his stick, and said, “Can you sell this, too?” The head monk gave a Katsu — the master hit him.
When Rinzai asked the head monk where he was coming from, he tested whether he knew the true-Self that is the root of his being. The head monk, failing to grasp Rinzai’s intention, made an ordinary answer. Then, Rinzai, drawing a line before him with his stick, posed another question ‘Can you sell this, too?’. The key point here is to know what the ‘this’ Rinzai mentioned is. If you happen to think that it meant the line he drew, you are being deluded by the illusion Rinzai created as an expedient so that he might show the true-Self. Rinzai meant not the line but the function of drawing the line. The head monk, sensing Rinzai’s intention, responded by giving a Katsu, by which he implied, “Your drawing the line is not different from my giving a Katsu.” Rinzai hit him as an approval.
Student: “What would you say if you were asked, ‘Can you sell this?’?”
Master: “People cannot take it even if I give it away for nothing.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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