Rinzai 190

Rinzai heard that the second Tokusan used to instruct his monks saying, “Whether you can speak or not, either way thirty blows.” Rinzai told Rakuho, “Go and ask him ‘Why does the one who understands get thirty blows?’, wait until he beats you, then grab the stick, hit him back, and see what he will do.” Rakuho went and did as bid. On being asked, Tokusan at once struck out. Rakuho hit him back. Tokusan then returned to his quarters. Rakuho came back and told Rinzai, who said, “So far, I have suspected that fellow; but since it has happened like this, did you for yourself now see Tokusan?” Rakuho hesitated. The master hit him.


We should know what the second Tokusan meant by his question. He meant that we should be able to say words that cannot be done and do what cannot be said, namely, we should be able to recognise the Buddha, perform His acts and speak His words. The purpose of Rinzai sending Rakuho to him seems more to give Rakuho an opportunity to learn something from the second Tokusan rather than to test the second Tokusan. When Rakuho returned and told Rinzai how the second Tokusan had responded, Rinzai, sensing that Rakuho had failed to grasp the second Tokusan’s meaning of returning to his quarters, said words that cannot be done by saying, “So far I have suspected that fellow.” Aware that Rakuho was still lost, Rinzai asked him again more directly if he had seen Tokusan. What Rinzai really wanted to know was whether Rakuho had seen the true-Self of Tokusan. When Rakuho, missing Rinzai’s point, was at a loss for words, Rinzai showed the true-Self of Tokusan by hitting him.

Student: “What is the meaning of the second Tokusan’s returning to his quarters?”

Master: “He ran away scared of being hit again.”

Student: “You are kidding me, aren’t you?”

Master: “I am as serious as the second Tokusan was when he returned to his quarters.”

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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

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