One day at the street market Fuke was begging all and sundry to give him a Buddhist monk’s robe. Whenever people offered him one, he said that he didn’t need it. Rinzai made the monk in charge of the temple’s affairs buy a coffin, and when Fuke returned, said to him, “There, I had this robe made for you.” Fuke shouldered the coffin, and went back to the street market, calling loudly, “Rinzai got this robe made for me! I am going to the East Gate and will leave this world there.” The people from the street crowded after him, eager to watch. Fuke said, “No, not today. Tomorrow, I will go to the South Gate to leave this world.” And so it went on for three days, until nobody believed it any longer. On the fourth day, and now without any spectators, Fuke went alone outside the city walls, and laid himself into the coffin. He asked a traveller who happened to pass by there to nail down the lid. The news spread at once, and the people from the street rushed there. Upon opening the coffin, they found that the body had vanished, but from high up in the sky they heard his hand bell ringing softly.
This part can sound misleading to modern people because it is so exaggerated that it seems to be fictional. What matters is how to grasp the meaning this story conveys without being deluded by words. ‘Fuke was begging all and sundry to give him a Buddhist monk’s robe’ implies that he was revealing the true-Self in a peculiar way to catch people’s attention as an expedient to spread Zen Buddhism. This is why he refused people whenever they, deluded by his words, offered him robes. Rinzai, aware of Fuke’s intention, got a coffin prepared for him. Fuke, with the coffin on his shoulder, went back to the street market, calling loudly, “Rinzai got this robe made for me!” He meant that Rinzai had the eye of wisdom to see his intention. From ‘I am going to the East Gate and will leave this world there’ to ‘until nobody believed it any longer’ Fuke revealed the true-Self. From ‘On the fourth day, and now without any spectators’ to ‘the people from the street rushed there’ Fuke, aware that his mission was over, revealed the true-Self finally and dramatically. The last part from ‘On opening the coffin’ to the end of this story shows that although his physical body became invisible, his existence as the true-Self is everlasting. The sounds of raindrops and birds we can hear now are not different from the ringing of his hand bell.
The core of this is that regardless of whether this story is real or fictional, this all the function of the true-Self.
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway
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