Blow Out the Candle
Tokusan was studying Zen under Ryutan. One night he came to Ryutan
and asked many questions. The teacher said: `The night is
getting old. Why don't you retire?'
So Tokusan bowed and opened the screen to go out, observing: `It is
very dark outside.'
Ryutan offered Tokusan a lighted candle to find his way. Just as
Tokusan received it, Ryutan blew it out. At that moment the mind
of Tokusan was opened.
`What have you attained?' asked Ryutan.
`From now on,' said Tokusan, `I will not doubt the teacher's words.'
The next day Ryutan told the monks at his lecture: `I see one monk
among you. His teeth are like the sword tree, his mouth is like the
blood bowl. If you hit him hard with a big stick, he will not even
so much as look back at you. Someday he will mount the highest
peak and carry my teaching there.'
On that day, in front of the lecture hall, Tokusan burned to ashes his
commentaries on the sutras. He said: `However abstruse the teachings
are, in comparison with this enlightenment they are like a single hair
to the great sky. However profound the complicated knowledge of the
world, compared to this enlightenment it is like one drop of water to
the great ocean.' Then he left the monastry.
Mumon's Comment: When Tokusan was in his own country he was not satisfied with Zen
although he had heard about it. He thought: `Those Southern monks
say they can teach Dharma outside of the sutras. They are all
wrong. I must teach them.' So he travelled south. He happened
to stop near Ryutan's monastery for refreshments. An old woman who
was there asked him: `What are you carrying so heavily?'
Tokusan replied: `This is a commentary I have made on the Diamond Sutra
after many years of work.'
The old woman said: `I read that sutra which says: "The past mind
cannot be held, the present mind cannot be held." You wish some
tea and refreshments. Which mind do you propose to use for them?'
Tokusan was as though dumb. Finally he asked the woman: `Do you
know of any good teacher around here?'
The old woman referred him to Ryutan, not more than five miles away.
So he went to Ryutan in all humility, quite different from when he
had started his journey. Ryutan in turn was so kind he forgot his
own dignity. It was like pouring muddy water over a drunken man
to sober him. After all, it was an unnecessary comedy.
A hundred hearings cannot surpass one seeing,
But after you see the teacher, that once glance cannot surpass a hundred hearings.
His nose was very high
But he was blind after all.
A Zen koan from the classic collection The Gateless Gate.
Original transcription by Ben Walter and Adam Fuller of iBiblio.