One day during the work period, Rinzai was last in the row. Obaku looked back and saw that Rinzai was empty-handed. “Where is your hoe?” Obaku asked. “Someone has gone off with it,” replied Rinzai. Obaku said, “Come here and we’ll talk about it.” When Rinzai came near, Obaku lifted his hoe high and said, “Nobody in the world can take this away from me.” Rinzai then grabbed the hoe, held it high and said, “How come it is now in my hand?” Obaku said, “Today there is one who works with all his might,” and returned to the monastery.
When Obaku, seeing Rinzai empty-handed, asked where his hoe was, he asked him not about his hoe but about the true-Self. Sensing Obaku’s intention, Rinzai revealed the true-Self by saying, ‘Someone has gone off with it’. Obaku refuted Rinzai’s words by saying, ‘Nobody in the world can take this away from me’. Obaku was testing Rinzai to see if he was deluded by words and forms. Rinzai responded by grabbing the hoe, holding it high and saying, ‘How come it is now in my hand?’ By this he meant, “I know you mean the true-Self. This is the true-Self in which giving is not different from taking since there is no giving and no taking.” Then, Obaku approved him by saying, ‘Today there is one who works with all his might’. One who works all with his might implies an enlightened one who is aware that he is one with everything.
All writing ©Boo Ahm. All images ©Simon Hathaway