Gasan was sitting at the bedside of Tekisui three days before his teacher’s passing. Tekisui had already chosen him as his successor. A temple recently had burned and Gasan was busy rebuilding the structure. Tekisui asked him: “What are you going to do when you get the temple rebuilt?” “When your sickness is over we want you to speak there,” said Gasan. “Suppose I do … Continue reading Kōan 35: Just Go to Sleep
Joshu began the study of Zen when he was sixty years old and continued until he was eighty, when he realized Zen. He taught from the age of eighty until he was one hundred and twenty. A student once asked him: “If I haven’t anything in my mind, what shall I do?” Joshu replied: “Throw it out.” “But if I haven’t anything, how can I … Continue reading Kōan 34: Joshu’s Zen
The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life. A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child. This made her parents very angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin. In great anger the … Continue reading Kōan 33: Is That So?
A lord asked Takuan, a Zen teacher, to suggest how he might pass the time. He felt his days very long attending his office and sitting stiffly to receive the homage of others. Takuan wrote eight Chinese characters and gave them to the man: Not twice this day Inch time foot gem.This day will not come again. Each minute is worth a priceless gem. Recently … Continue reading Kōan 32: Inch Time Foot Gem
A woman of Nagasaki named Kame was one of the few makers of incense burners in Japan. Such a burner is a work of art to be used only in a tearoom or before a family shrine. Kame, whose father before her had been such an artist, was fond of drinking. She also smoked and associated with men most of the time. Whenever she made … Continue reading Kōan 31: Incense Burner
A great Japanese warrior named Nobunaga decided to attack the enemy although he had only one-tenth the number of men the opposition commanded. He knew that he would win, but his soldiers were in doubt. On the way he stopped at a Shinto shrine and told his men: “After I visit the shrine I will toss a coin. If heads comes, we will win; if … Continue reading Kōan 30: In the Hands of Destiny
“Our schoolmaster used to take a nap every afternoon,” related a disciple of Soyen Shaku. “We children asked him why he did it and he told us: ‘I go to dreamland to meet the old sages just as Confucius did.’ When Confucius slept, he would dream of ancient sages and later tell his followers about them. “It was an extremely hot one day so some … Continue reading Kōan 29: In Dreamland