August 1962

Originally offered: August 1st, 1962 | Modified October 27th, 2009 by korin



(published August 1962, Wind Bell #9)


A government official named Shiba visited Hyabujo Mountain and was taken by the great beauty there.  He decided to ask a monk to build a monastery on the mountain.

He chose between two monks, Karin and Isan (Reiyu Zenji).  Isan was chosen when Shiba watched the way he walked.  Karin, who was seen first, was not discouraged by not being chosen.  Years later when Karin was known as a famous Zen Master, he lived on a remote mountain and his Zen was known by birds and animals.

One day a government surveyor came across a hermitage on a mountain and found a great tiger standing at the gate.  The tiger disappeared into the hut, and soon an old Zen Master came out.  He was Karin.


The kind of Zen which walks an elegant way is quite different from the kind of Zen which tames a tiger.  Nevertheless, both should be a creative form of the transmitted original Zen from Buddha.  We should acknowledge the ways of both monks as the pure and fully transmitted zazen as well as recognize the ways as the restriction placed on each monk by a particular occasion.  In other words, we should not be captivated by some particular form of Zen nor should we discriminate some particular type of Zen.  Zen must be always creative.


Zazen is scripture itself.  To do zazen for weeks or hours is to bring scripture into being.  No scripture is left out of zazen, Buddha’s whole life teaching is there.  In zazen Buddha (we) creates scripture, Buddha (we) creates Buddha.  In zazen we are Buddha.



Checked by Gordon Geist 1999


One Response to “August 1962”

  1. korin Says:

    Karin Zenkaku (Ch. Hualin Shanjue) was a disciple of Baso (Ch. Mazu, 709-788).
    Isan Reiyu (Ch. Guishan Lingyou, 771-853) was a disciple of Hyakujo (Ch. Baizhang, 720-814, himself a disciple of Baso). Isan was regarded as the founder, with his disciple Kyozan (Ch. Yangshan, 807-883), of the Igyo (Ch, Guiyang) house of Zen, one of the “Five Houses of Zen.”

    The Chiji Shingi (Guidelines for the Officers), which is part of Dogen’s Eihei Shingi (Eihei’s Pure Standards), contains the following story (Kazuaki Tanahashi and Mel Weitsman translation):

    Later the ascetic Sima came from Hunan. Baizhang said to him, “I want to move to Mt. Gui. Do you think it’s a good thing to do?”
    Sima said, “Mt. Gui is an extraordinary place. You could assemble fifteen hundred people there, but it’s not a place for you to live.”
    Baizhang said, “Why?”
    Sima answered, “You are a bone person and it’s a flesh mountain. If you resided there, you would have less than a thousand students.”
    Baizhang said, “Is there anyone in this community who could reside there?”
    Sima replied, “Let me look them over.”
    Baizhang asked the attendant monk to call in the head monk and asked the ascetic, “What about this one?”
    Sima cleared his throat and, after asking the monk to walk several steps, said, “This monk is not suitable.”
    Then Baizhang sent for the head cook, Lingyou.
    Sima said, “This is indeed the master of Mt. Gui.”
    That evening Baizhang invited Lingyou to his room and entrusted him with these words: “My place of teaching is here. Mt. Gui is an excellent spot. I want you to reside there to continue my teaching and bring across many latecomers.”
    Then Hualin, the head monk, heard about this and said, “I have the honor of being the head monk. I wonder why Lingyou has been selected to be an abbot.”
    Baizhang said, “If you can say a word in front of the assembly that demonstrates your excellence, you, too, can be an abbot.” Then he pointed at a water jar and said, “If you don’t call this a jar, what do you call it?”
    Hualin said, “You can’t call it a wooden stick.”
    Baizhang did not approve it. Then he asked the same question to Lingyou. Lingyou turned over the jar with his foot. Baizhang laughed and said, “The head monk is defeated by this mountain fellow.” Then he sent Lingyou to Mt. Gui.
    The mountain was steep and there was no sign of humans there. Guishan joined the monkeys and ate chestnuts. Monks at the foot of the mountain gradually learned about him, formed an assembly, and established a monastery. Later Li Jingrang recommended to the Emperor that the place should be given the name of the Tongqing Monastery. Minister Peixiu visited to inquire about the profound mystery. After that, Zen students from all over assembled there. [end of Chiji Shingi excerpt]

    Karin Zenkaku later became abbot at Karin (Ch. Hualin), which gave him his name. “He once was asked by Prime Minister Pei Xiugong if he had any attendants. Hualin called out the names “large Emptiness” and “Small Emptiness” and two tigers appeared. When Pei Xiugong became frightened, Hualin asked the tigers to leave for a while. They roared and departed.” (Leighton and Okumura)

    Suzuki-roshi identifies Shiba (Ch. Sima) as a government official. The Tanahashi and Weitsman translation above and the translation by Leighton and Okumura follow a standard interpretation of the Chinese (頭陀) in identifying Shiba as an ascetic. A translation by Shohei Ichimura seems to interpret the characters as a name and identifies Shiba as a lay person: “Shiba Zuda, who was a lay disciple of Ma-tsu,” which seems more in keeping with the interpretation Suzuki-roshi offers.

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