December 1964

Originally offered: December 1st, 1964 | Modified October 27th, 2009 by korin





December 1964

Introductory Word:

The treasure sword always is present (beyond oneness and duality). It is a life-taking sword and yet a life-giving sword. Sometimes it is here (in the teacher’s hand) and sometimes there (in the student’s hand); but this make no difference. gaining or losing it and its positive and negative use are at each other’s disposal. Just consider! How do you make good use of the Treasure Sword without attaching to the idea of host and guest, or integration and disintegration?

Note by Reverend Suzuki:

In the last Wind Bell, in the discussion of Model Subject No. 73, I explained the Middle Way or negative aspect of life, which provides us with the full meaning of life in various circumstances. In this Introductory Word, En-go presents the same aspect under the name of Treasure Sword.

These subjects are kōans to which Zen students devote themselves with great effort. It is important to confront yourself with the experiences of the old Zen students by reading these stories over and over again. I shall be very glad if you will give my writing your critical attention.

Main Subject:

Attention!  A monk from Jo-shu’s temple came to U-kyu’s place. U-kyu asked him: “Is there any difference between my way of Zen and that of Jo-shu?” The monk said: “No difference.” U-kyu said: “If there is no difference, why don’t you go back to Jo-shu?” and then he gave this monk a good slap. The monk said: “If your staff had an eye to see, you could not have delivered such a wanton blow.” U-kyu said: “Today I have given a wonderful slap,” and he gave the monk three more whacks. The monk went away.

The story to this point is perfect, but it continued in this way: As the monk was leaving, U-kyu said: “Originally a blind staff was something with which to slap someone.” The monk turned back and said: “A man with a dipper is handling the situation.” (This means U-kyu has taken some leadership in the situation). U-kyu said: “If you want the staff, this jungle monk will let you have it.” The monk came up to U-kyu, seized the staff and gave him three blows. U-kyu said: “Oh the blind staff! The blind staff!” The monk said: “Here is someone who has been hit.” U-kyu said: “This monk was hit without reason.” The monk immediately made obeisance to him. U-kyu said: “Well, well! Is this all?” The monk went out with a roar of laughter. U-kyu concluded, saying: “So it is! So it is!”

Note by Reverend Suzuki:

As you know, after an unknown southerner came to the north and received the transmission from the Fifth Chinese Patriarch, Zen divided into two schools: the Southern School and the Northern school. The U-kyu of this subject was a southerner and a disciple of the fifth Patriarch. The difference between the Northern and Southern Schools was as great as that between a dragon and a serpent. The Northern School was called the Gradual School while the Southern School was called the Sudden School.

A monk came to U-kyu’s place from Jo-shu’s temple hoping to study a different way of Zen. U-kyu gave the monk an unexpected question. He asked if there was any difference between his own way of Zen and the way of Jo-shu. But the monk’s answer, that there is no difference, is not at all a common answer, when there is indeed a great difference. This monk might have been an extraordinary one. Only a tactful master like U-kyu, would have been able to manage him. Thus U-kyu acknowledges the strength of the monk and gave him the meaningful slaps. The monk appreciated the meaning of the tactful U-kyu. There is not the slightest gap between these two masters’ activities.

However, in the realm of the ultimate integration of the powers of teacher and student, one goes with the other. (Refer to Chan and Zen Teaching, Second Series, p.127, and to my interpretation of Model Subject No. 73 in the last Wind Bell). In this realm, nothing takes its own form. The absolute negative aspect is the opposite of the first part of this subject where a good teacher gave a good slap to a good monk; and in the second part, an aged U-kyu was slapped by a bad student with a blind staff. But nothing is wrong with these tactful masters. Sometimes positive, sometimes negative, sometimes in order and sometimes reversed, their great activity has no special regulation. When such activity of two masters ceases to be curios, you will get the gist of our traditional way. All the mysterious powers and faculties depend upon this secret.

The blind staff in this Model Subject means right Dharma–which can be likened to an invisible wedge for the dualistic world: a wedge which gives rise to good and bad, love and hatred, favorable and adverse: the dualistic confliction of the amicable worldly affairs; and yet which keeps the strict unity of our existence.

In the second part of this subject, the situation between the master and the monk changed under the blind staff.  The monk seized the staff and struck U-kyu who had offered his own staff to him.  Here U-kyu said: “Oh, the blind staff! the blind staff!” The monk said:  “Here is someone who was hit by it.” U-kyu said: “This fellow (U-kyu) was hit without reason.”  Here we see the blind staff playing the leading part of the role. U-kyu was at one with this monk, and the monk was at one with the blind staff, the symbol of the traditional way.  In En-go’s Introductory Word, by the ‘Treasure Sword’ he meant this blind staff.  [See Introductory Word to this subject.]

The monk immediately made obeisance to U-kyu.  U-kyu said:  “Well, well! Is that all?” The monk went out with roaring laughter.  U-kyu concluded the subject saying:  “So it is! So it is!”  This ‘So it is’ is not simple.  Let us see Set-cho’s appreciatory word.

Appreciatory Word:

It is easy to attract (a serpent by calling with a flute).  It is difficult to turn loose.  Look carefully at the well-integrated power (of the two).  Even though the kalpa-stone is hard, it may be worn away.  Even though the ocean is deep it may be dried up.  But U-kyu’s way will never cease.  Oh aged U-kyu!  Aged U-kyu!  One after another, how many variations have you in your way; if only you had not given that dipper to the monk.  (Set-cho is creating a problem for us students.)


This transcript is a retyping of the existing City Center transcript (thought to be based on notes by Baker-rōshi).  It is not verbatim.  No tape is available.  The City Center transcript was entered onto disk by Jose Escobar, 1997.  It was reformatted by Bill Redican (10/27/01). Minor corrections by Korin (8/09).

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One Response to “December 1964”

  1. korin Says:

    Here is the Cleary & Cleary translation of Case 75 of the Blue Cliff Record:

    Yuanwu’s Introduction:
    The subtle point, the jewel sword, perpetually revealed, present in front of us. It can kill people and it can bring people life. It’s there and it’s here, gaining and losing together with us. If you want to pick it up, you’re free to pick it up; if you want to put it down, you’re free to put it down.
    But say, what’s it like when not falling into guest and host, when interchanging without getting stuck? To test, I’m citing this old case: look!

    Main Case:
    A monk came to Wu Chiu from the congregation of the Master of Ting Chou. Wu Chiu asked, “How does Ting Chou’s Dharma Path compare to here?” The monk said, “It’s not different.” Chiu said, “If it’s not different, then you should go back there,” and then hit him. The monk said, “There are eyes on the staff: you shouldn’t carelessly hit people.” Chiu said, “Today I’ve hit one,” and hit him again three times. The monk thereupon went out.
    Chiu said, “All along there’s been someone receiving an unjust beating.” The monk turned around and said, “What can I do? The handle is in your hands, Teacher.” Chiu said, “If you want, I’ll turn it over to you.” The monk came up to Chiu, grabbed the staff out of his hands, and hit him three times. Chiu said, “An unjust beating, an unjust beating!” The monk said, “There’s someone receiving it.”
    Chiu said, “I hit this fellow carelessly.” Immediately the monk bowed. Chiu said, “Yet you act this way.” The monk laughed loudly and went out. Chiu said, “That’s all it comes to, that’s all it comes to.”

    Xuedou’s Verse:
    To summon is easy–
    To send away is hard.
    Observe carefully the interchange of action points.
    The rock of ages though solid can still crumble–
    When they stand in its depths the ocean must dry up.
    Old Wu Chiu! Old Wu Chiu!
    How many kinds?
    Indeed he had no reason for giving him the handle.

    Chan and Zen Teaching, Second Series, (Lu K’uan Yu, Charles Luk) pg. 127 depicts the symbols of the Five Positions or Five Ranks, of the Ts’ao-Tung Sect (the Soto lineage). The text following this includes various teachings from Tung-shan and Ts’ao-shan concerning the Five Positions. Suzuki-roshi may be referring to the dialectic of the Five Positions as a whole or to the fifth position, which Luk translates as “Integration of the real and the seeming.”

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