Zen

Rinzai 207

The master went to Daigu, who asked where he had come from. The master replied that he came from Obaku. Daigu asked, “And what did Obaku have to say?” Rinzai replied, “I asked him three times what the essence of Buddhism was, and three times he beat me. I do not know whether I was at fault or not.” Daigu said, “When Obaku, like a good old grandmother, has taken all this trouble over you, you still come here asking me whether you were at fault or not?” Upon hearing these words, Rinzai had the great awakening, and said, “After all, there is nothing much to Obaku’s Buddha-Dharma.” Daigu grabbed him and said, “You little devil still wetting your bed! You come here saying you do not know whether you were at fault or not, and now you say that after all there is nothing much to Obaku’s Buddha-Dharma. What have you seen? Speak quickly, speak quickly!” Rinzai, while Daigu was still grabbing him, gave him three punches to the ribs. Daigu released him and said, “Your master is Obaku. This has nothing to do with me.”

Commentary:

Daigu’s comment ‘When Obaku, like a good old grandmother, has taken all this trouble over you, you still come here asking me whether you were at fault or not?’ means, “Obaku, like a good old grandmother, has so much compassion for you that he answered your question by revealing the core of Buddhism instead of using words for the purpose of making you feel the essence of Buddhism in person. However, you still mistake his kind teaching as a rod and ask me whether you were at fault or not.” Upon hearing these words, Rinzai realised that they were the function of the true-Self and that they were not different from Obaku’s hitting. After enlightenment, when Rinzai said, “After all, there is nothing much to Obaku’s Buddha-Dharma”, he didn’t mean to belittle Obaku but meant to reveal the true-Self by saying, “Now I know what Obaku showed me. There is nothing special since I already have it.” Then, Daigu, to reconfirm Rinzai’s enlightenment, asked him, “What have you seen? Speak quickly, speak quickly!” Rinzai lost no time in responding to the question by revealing the true-Self through giving him three punches to the ribs. Feeling confident of Rinzai’s enlightenment, Daigu sent him back to Obaku, telling him that his enlightenment should be attributed to Obaku, not to him and that Obaku was his master.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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