COMMENTARY BY MASTER SHUNRYŪ SUZUKI
ON MODEL SUBJECT NO. 19
FROM THE “BLUE CLIFF RECORDS“
Gutei’s lifting up one finger:
Gutei lived in a small hermitage to be free from the fierce persecution of the first part of the ninth century A.D. in China.
One day a nun named Jissai came to visit him, entering with her hat on her head and her pilgrim staff in her hand. She looked around the seat where Gutei was sitting and said, “I will take off my pilgrimage hat, if you give me a satisfactory statement.” When he could say nothing, she started to leave. He tried to stop her, because it was late and dark out. Then she said, “If you can offer one word good enough to stop me, I will be happy to stay.”
When he could not, he became quite ashamed of himself and decided to leave his hermitage on a pilgrimage in order to study Buddhism some more. That night he dreamed a Bodhisattva visited him and said that an incarnate Bodhisattva was coming to teach him.
The next day the famous Zen Master Tenryu came. Gutei told him Jissai’s visit and about the dream. Tenryu, in answer, lifted up one finger. Gutei was enlightened at that moment, and he said, “I have acquired Tenryu’s ‘one finger zen’ as an inexhaustible treasure for the rest of my life.”
From that time on, he answered innumerable questions by lifting up one finger.