Later, Issan asked Gyosan, “What is the meaning of Obaku’s beating the superintendent?” Gyosan said, “The real robber ran off; the pursuer got the stick.”
In the Zen community a robber, or a thief symbolises an enlightened person, who is thought to have attained the universe for nothing without being noticed. So, in Gyosan’s words ‘The real robber ran off; the pursuer got the stick’, the real robber implies Rinzai who grasped Obaku’s intention, and the pursuer the superintendent who, not conscious of Obaku’s intention, thought that Obaku had hit him with his stick. He was deceived by the illusions that Obaku had made as expedient to reveal the true-Self.
Student: “Are you a robber, too?”
Master: “No robber thinks that he himself is a robber. Only a robber can recognise a robber.”
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway