Rinzai (Lin Chi) was a disciple of Obaku (Huang-Po) and
the founder of the school that bears his name. His Zen-experience shows
some interesting features which may be considered in a way typically orthodox
in those days when the ko-an system of Zen discipline was not yet in vogue.
He had been studying Zen for some years under Obaku when the head monk
“How long have you been here?”
“Three years, sir.”
“Have you ever seen the master?”
“Why don’t you?”
“Because I do not know what question to ask ”
The head monk then told Rinzai: “You go and see the
master and ask ‘What is the principle of Buddhism?’ ”
Rinzai saw the master as he was told and asked: “What
is the principle of Buddhism?” Even before he could finish the question,
Obaku gave him several blows.
When the head monk saw him coming back from the master,
he inquired about the result of the interview. Said Rinzai sorrowfully:
“I asked as you told me and he struck me several times.” The
monk told him not to be discouraged but to go again to the master. Rinzai
saw Obaku three times and each time the same treatment was accorded him,
and poor Rinzai was not any the wiser.
Finally, Rinzai thought it best to see another master
and the head monk agreed. The master directed him to go to Daigu. When
Rinzai came to Daigu, the latter asked: “Where do you come from?”
“What instruction did he give you?”
“I asked him three times about the ultimate principle
of Buddhism and each time he gave me several blows without any instruction.
I wish you would tell me what fault I committed.”
Daigu said: “No one could be more thoroughly kindhearted
than that dotard master, and yet you want to know where you were faulty.”
Thus reprimanded, Rinzai’s eye was opened to the meaning
of Obaku’s apparently unkind treatment. He exclaimed: “After all,
there is not much in Obaku’s Buddhism!”
Daigu at once seized Rinzai’s collar and said: “A
while ago you said you could not understand and now you declare that there
is not much in Obaku’s Buddhism. What do you mean by that?”
Rinzai without saying a word probed Daigu’s ribs three
times with his fist. Daigu loosened his hold on Rinzai and remarked: “Your
teacher is Obaku; I am not at all concerned with your business.”
Rinzai returned to Obaku, who asked him: “How is
it that you are back so soon?”
“Because your kindness is much too grandmotherly
Obaku said: “When I see that fellow Daigu, I will
give him twenty blows.”
“Don’t wait for that,” said Rinzai, “have
them now!” So saying he gave the old master a hearty slap.
The old master laughed a hearty laugh.
in Zen Buddhism, second series
both by Daisetz T. Suzuki