Rinzai 216

Rinzai was asleep in the meditation hall. Obaku came down the hall, saw him there, and struck the sounding board once with his staff. Rinzai lifted his head, but when he saw it was Obaku, he went back to sleep. Obaku again gave a whack on the sounding board, then went up to the head monk who was sitting in meditation, and said, “The young one down the hall is truly sitting. You with your fancy notions, what are you doing here?” The head monk said, “What does this old fellow want of me?” Obaku gave one more stroke on the sounding board and left.


Obaku tested Rinzai by striking the sounding board to see if he was deluded by the illusion of the sounding board.

When woken up by the sound of the sounding board Obaku struck with his staff, Rinzai went back to sleep after seeing it was Obaku. Seeing through Rinzai’s behaviour like this, Obaku approved him by giving another whack on the sounding board. This part may appear to be confusing, or misleading because it can seem to encourage those who practise sitting-meditation into sleeping. In fact, Rinzai meant that in the state of Emptiness there was no difference between Obaku’s striking the sounding board and his sleeping. Obaku tested the head monk to see whether he was deluded by words through praising Rinzai and scolding him. The head monk, conscious of Obaku’s intention, lost no time in responding by remarking, ‘What does this old fellow want of me?’ Obaku approved him by striking the sounding board.

©Boo Ahm

All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway

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