Ryo-A, a priest of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman shrine, came to Magaku (National teacher Bukko, who succeeded Daikaku) and told him the story of Daikaku’s one-word sutra. He said: ‘I do not ask about the six or seven syllables recited by other sects, but what is the one word of Zen?’
The teacher said: ‘Our school does not set up any word; its dharma is a special transmission outside scriptures, a truth transmitted from heart to heart. If you can penetrate through to that, your whole life will be a dharani (Buddhist mantra), and your death will be a dharani. What would you be wanting with a word or half a word? The old master Daikaku went deep into the forest and put one word down there, and now the whole Zen world is tearing itself to pieces on the thorns, trying to find it. If the reverend Ryo-A before me wishes to grasp that one word, then without opening the mouth, do you recite the sutra of no-word. If you fail in your awareness of the no-word, you will at once lose the one word. Displayed, the one word is set above the thirty-three heavens; buried, it is at the bottom of the eighth great hell. Yet in all four directions and above and below, where could it ever be hidden? At this instant before Your Reverence! Is there a word, or is there not?’
The golden needle did not penetrate (the embroidered cloth of the priest’s mind), and he silently took his leave.
This incident became a koan in Kamakura Zen at the interviews of Gyokkei, the 131st master at Enkakuji.