The Manliness Of The Zen Monk And Of The Samurai


Thirdly, both the Zen monk and the Samurai were distinguished by

their manliness and dignity in manner, sometimes amounting to

rudeness. This is due partly to the hard discipline that they

underwent, and partly to the mode of instruction. The following

story,[FN#83] translated by Mr. D. Suzuki, a friend of mine, may well

exemplify our statement:

[FN#83] The Journal of the Pali Text Societ
, 1906-1907.

When Rin-zai[FN#84] was assiduously applying himself to Zen

discipline under Obak (Huang Po in Chinese, who died 850), the head

monk recognized his genius. One day the monk asked him how long he

had been in the monastery, to which Rin-zai replied: 'Three years.'

The elder said: 'Have you ever approached the master and asked his

instruction in Buddhism?' Rin-zai said: 'I have never done this, for

I did not know what to ask.' 'Why, you might go to the master and

ask him what is the essence of Buddhism?'

[FN#84] Lin Tsi, the founder of the Lin Tsi school.

Rin-zai, according to this advice, approached Obak and repeated the

question, but before he finished the master gave him a slap.

When Rin-zai came back, the elder asked how the interview went.

Said Rin-zai: 'Before I could finish my question the master slapped

me, but I fail to grasp its meaning.' The elder said: 'You go to him

again and ask the same question.' When he did so, he received the

same response from the master. But Rin-zai was urged again to try it

for the third time, but the outcome did not improve.

At last he went to the elder, and said 'In obedience to your kind

suggestion, I have repeated my question three times, and been slapped

three times. I deeply regret that, owing to my stupidity, I am

unable to comprehend the hidden meaning of all this. I shall leave

this place and go somewhere else.' Said the elder: 'If you wish to

depart, do not fail to go and see the master to say him farewell.'

Immediately after this the elder saw the master, and said: 'That

young novice, who asked about Buddhism three times, is a remarkable

fellow. When he comes to take leave of you, be so gracious as to

direct him properly. After a hard training, he will prove to be a

great master, and, like a huge tree, he will give a refreshing

shelter to the world.'

When Rin-zai came to see the master, the latter advised him not to

go anywhere else, but to Dai-gu (Tai-yu) of Kaoan, for he would be

able to instruct him in the faith.

Rin-zai went to Dai-gu, who asked him whence he came. Being

informed that he was from Obak, Dai-gu further inquired what

instruction he had under the master. Rin-zai answered: 'I asked him

three times about the essence of Buddhism, and he slapped me three

times. But I am yet unable to see whether I had any fault or not.'

Dai-gu said: 'Obak was tender-hearted even as a dotard, and you are

not warranted at all to come over here and ask me whether anything

was faulty with you.'

Being thus reprimanded, the signification of the whole affair

suddenly dawned upon the mind of Rin-zai, and he exclaimed: 'There is

not much, after all, in the Buddhism of Obak.' Whereupon Dai-gu took

hold of him, and said: 'This ghostly good-for-nothing creature! A

few minutes ago you came to me and complainingly asked what was wrong

with you, and now boldly declare that there is not much in the

Buddhism of Obak. What is the reason of all this? Speak out quick!

speak out quick!' In response to this, Rin-zai softly struck three

times his fist at the ribs of Dai-gu. The latter then released him,

saying: 'Your teacher is Obak, and I will have nothing to do with


Rin-zai took leave of Dai-gu and came back to Obak, who, on seeing

him come, exclaimed: 'Foolish fellow! what does it avail you to come

and go all the time like this?' Rin-zai said: 'It is all due to your

doting kindness.'

When, after the usual salutation, Rin-zai stood by the side of Obak,

the latter asked him whence he had come this time. Rin-zai answered:

In obedience to your kind instruction, I was with Dai-gu. Thence am

I come.'

And he related, being asked for further information, all that had

happened there.

Obak said: 'As soon as that fellow shows himself up here, I shall

have to give him a good thrashing.' 'You need not wait for him to

come; have it right this moment,' was the reply; and with this

Rin-zai gave his master a slap on the back.

Obak said: 'How dares this lunatic come into my presence and play

with a tiger's whiskers?' Rin-zai then burst out into a Ho,[FN#85]

and Obak said: 'Attendant, come and carry this lunatic away to his


[FN#85] A loud outcry, frequently made use of by Zen teachers, after

Rin-zai. Its Chinese pronunciation is 'Hoh,' and pronounced 'Katsu'

in Japanese, but 'tsu' is not audible.