Imai Fukuzan’s Introduction to Shonan-katto-roku

The origin of warrior Zen in Kamakura, and in the whole of the eastern part of Japan, goes back to the training of warrior pupils by Eisai (Senko Kokushi). But it was the training of warriors and priests by two great Chinese masters, Daikaku and Bukko, which became the Zen style of the Kamakura temples. There were three streams in Kamakura Zen: scriptural Zen; on-the-instant (shikin) Zen; Zen adapted to the pupil (ki-en Zen). Scriptural Zen derives from Eisai, founder of Jufukuji in Kamakura in 1215, and of Kenninji in Kyoto. But at that time it was rare to find in Kamakura any samurai who had literary attainments, so that the classical koans from Chinese records of patriarchs could hardly be given to them. The teacher therefore selected passages from various sutras for the warriors, and for monks also. These specially devised scriptural Zen koans used by Eisai at Kamakura …

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Extracts from Imai Fukuzan’s Introduction to Warrior Zen

EXTRACTS FROM IMAI FUKUZAN’S INTRODUCTION TO WARRIOR ZEN According to the Nyudosanzenki (Records of Lay Zen) — the postscript of the first volume of the manuscript of Zenko and the introduction to volume eight of the Kencho manuscripts — the Zen training of warriors at Kamakura fell into two stages. Up to the end of the Muromachi period (1573), incidents from the training of the early warrior disciples were set as koans to beginners, and only afterwards were the classical koans concerning Buddhas and patriarchs used extensively. The incidents from the Zen training of warriors were the kind recorded in the Shonankattoroku. But after the end of the Muromachi era, it became common among teachers to present warriors with nothing but classical koans from the very beginning, and those who used the incidents from warrior training as koans gradually became very few. So that the three hundred odd koans of …

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The mirror of Enkakuji – Koan 1

No. 1. The mirror of Enkakuji Regent Tokiyori founded the great temple of Kenchoji for the teaching of Buddhism, but the temple soon could not accommodate all the many warriors who became students (nyudo) in order to enter the Buddhist path and give all their free time to it. So in the first year of Koan (1278) Tokimune, Tokiyori’s son, decided to build another great temple, and invited priest Rankei (afterwards Daikaku) to choose the Brahma-ground, as the site for a temple is called. Teacher and regent walked together round the nearby hills, and found the ruins of a Shingon temple (of the mantra sect) where Minamoto Yoshiyori had once set up a pagoda of Perfect Realization. They decided on this as the place to plant the banner of the Law. First the teacher performed a purification, and made three strokes with a mattock; then the regent made three strokes, …

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Saving Sajiwara’s Soul – Koan 3

On the fifteenth day of the seventh month of the sixth year of Kencho (1255), the rite of Feeding the Hungry Ghosts was being performed at the Karataka mountain gate of Kenchoji temple. When the sutra reading had been completed, however, priest Rankei (Master Daikaku) suddenly pointed to the main gate and shouted: ‘A knight has come through the gate. It is Kajiwara Kagetoki, of many treacheries. Bring him to salvation quickly!’ The monks all stared hard at the gate, but could see no knight there. Only the head monk shouted, ‘Clear to see!’ He left the line and went back to the Zen hall. Then the teacher berated the others, saying: ‘Look at the crowds of you, supposed to be saving myriad spirits in the three worlds, and yet you cannot save one knight – blind clods! The rite must be performed again at the main gate, and the …

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Bukko’s No-Word Sutra – Koan 5

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 …

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The Bucket without a Bottom – Koan 7

(Imai’s note: The nun Mujaku, whose lay name was Chiyono, was a woman of Akita who married and had one daughter. In 1276 when she was thirty-four her husband died, and she could not get over the grief. She became a nun, and trained under Bukko. The story is that on the evening of a fifteenth day of August, when she was filling her lacquer flower-bucket where the valley stream comes down, the bottom fell out; seeing the water spilling she had a flash of insight, and made a poem on it to present to the teacher. Later he set her a classical koan, Three Pivot-phrases of Oryu, and examined her minutely on it, and she was able to meet the questions. Again she continued interviews with him for a long time, and in the end he ‘passed over the robe and bowl’, namely authorized her as a successor to …

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Jizo Stands Up – Koan 8

When Hojo Soun attacked Odawara Castle and was occupying Kanto, the eastern part of Japan, the soldiers of the areas round Kamakura forced their way onto the lands of the temples; as their number gradually increased, Kenchoji was in dire straits. On a winter day in the first year of Tenmon (1532), the teacher Yakkoku, the 169th master at Kenchoji, disregarding his own illness got up and gave an address from the high seat. Glaring at the congregation, of all ranks, he said: ‘Men of great virtue, I ask you this – make the seated Jizo image in this hall stand up!’ Out of this occasion came one of the koans at Kenchoji. The samurai Mamiya Munekatsu, who had a position as a temple official, confined himself in the great hall where the image was – a wooden Jizo seated on the lotus altar – for twenty-one days, vowing to …

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Numbering the Waves on Yui Beach – Koan 17

Minamoto Munatsune, in the spring of the first year of Shogen (1259) when he was seventy-five years of age, came to Kenchoji to become a shaven-headed monk, with the name of Gido. The great teacher Rankei (namely Daikaku) had a formal interview with him, and taking him to be good spiritual material, set him the riddle of how many waves there are on Yui beach. Gido poured out his heart’s blood on this for two years, and finally breaking through the confusion he made answer in a Chinese poem: In the ocean of the holy dharmaThere is neither movement nor stillness.The essence of the wave is like a mirror;When something comes, the reflection appears.When there is nothing in the mind,Wind and waves are both forgotten.  He made a verse in Japanese about his time of practice: Two years of wandering on Yui beach.There was no need to number off the …

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Tokimune’s Thing below the Navel – Koan 18

(When Tokimune received the news that the Mongol armada was poised to attack Japan, he went in full armour to see Bukkoo his teacher, and said: ‘The great thing has come,’ to which the teacher replied: ‘Can you somehow avoid it?’ Tokimune calmly stamped his feet, shook his whole body and gave a tremendous shout of Katzu! The teacher said: ‘A real lion cub, a real lion roar. Dash straight forward and don’t look round!’ After the defeat of the Mongols, Tokimune built the great monastery of Enkakuji, and installed in it the representation of Jizo-of-a-thousand-forms. Bukko became the first teacher there. Tokimune organized a great religious service for the souls of the dead of both sides. Soon afterwards he died at the age of thirty-three. In the funeral oration Bukko said that he had been a Bodhisattva – ‘for nearly twenty years he ruled without showing joy or anger; …

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Stopping the fighting across the River – Koan 22

In the first year of Tê Yu (1275) priest Mugaku (Bukko) had planted the banner of the dharma at Chênju temple in the province of T’ai Chou when the Mongols invaded China and overran the province. The teacher accordingly withdrew to Nêngjên temple in Wên Chou, but next year they came plundering into that province too. When one party of Mongol soldiers attacked Nêngjên temple, everyone fled except the teacher, who sat quietly in the main hall. (The official) Ch’ên Kuo-hsiang often visited the master as a pupil. The teacher, pointing to the Mongol camp across the Wen river, said, ‘There is a rope across the river into the camp. Do you make trial of it.’ (Do you stop the fighting – Imai.) Hsiang said: ‘How can I make trial of it?’ The teacher suddenly grabbed hold of Hsiang and slapped his face. Hsiang instantly had a realization, and made …

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The Cave of the Man in Mount Fuji – Koan 24

(Imai’s note: In the Record of Nine Generations of the Hojo Rulers, the first part, the following story occurs: On the third day of the sixth month of the third year of Kennin (1203 A.D.) the Shogun Yoriie went hunting on the foot-slopes of Mount Fuji, in the country of Suruga. There is a big cave on the lower slope of the mountain which the local people call the Cave of Man. He thought he would like to find out where it led, and called Nitta Shiro Tadatsune; giving him a most precious sword, he told him to go into the cave and explore it to the end. Tadatsune bowed, received the sword and withdrew. At the head of a party of six, he went into the cave. The next day, the fourth, at the hour of the snake (10 a.m.) Shiro Tadatsune came back out of the cave, his …

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The rite of the Wind God at Kamakura – Koan 28

In the second year of Kangi (1229) there were portents of evil in the East of Japan. On the sixth day of the seventh month there was a frost at Kamakura, and at Kanago district in Musashi province, flakes of snow fell. The diviners searched the records, to find that in the 39th year of the reign of the Emperor Kogen (reigned 214–158 BC) snow had fallen in June, and there had been a great snowfall in June of the 34th year of the Empress Suiko (592–628), and another in the same month of the eighth year of the era called Engi (the middle part of the reign) of Emperor Daigo (897–930). At these times there had been a bad year, the people in distress and fighting breaking out between local gangs. The diviners gave grave warnings that the omens portended calamities of a similar nature, with starvation and insurrection. …

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The Cat-Monster – Koan 33

No. 33. THE CAT-MONSTER When Odawara Castle fell to the attackers in the Meio period (the end of the fifteenth century), Akiko, who had been a maid in the service of Mori Fujiyori, the lord of the castle, escaped with a cat which had been her pet for years. She took refuge in the villa of the painter Takuma at Kinokubo by the Nameri River. She lived there some years, and then the cat became a wild supernatural monster which terrorized the people, finally even preying on infants in the village. The local officials joined with the people in attempts to catch it, but with its strange powers of appearing and disappearing, the swordsmen and archers could find nothing to attack, and men and women went in dread day and night. Then in December of the second year of Eisho (1505), priest Yakkoku went up on to the dais at …

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Yakushi of a thousand forms – Koan 36

On the eighth day of the eleventh month of the first year of Katei (1235) General Yoritsune was in great pain from an infected wound. All shrines and temples were to offer prayers for him, and the Buddhist image-maker Yasusada was ordered to make, in a single night, a Yakushi of a thousand forms, each one to be 1 ft 6 ins (Yakushi is the bodhisattva of healing). And the astrologer Chikamoto was to perform a ceremony 36,000 times in the same time. It is said that in the event, the general recovered in less than a day. I don’t ask you about the 36,000 ceremonies, but how could the thousand images of Yakushi be made in a single night? TEST Those in the line of the patriarchs are said to have the ability to use a thousand hands and a thousand eyes. Now use them to make the Yakushi …

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The Birth of the Buddha – Koan 39

Ishida Yamato-no-kami entered upon the Way at Enkakuji, where he had the Zen interviews with Ikka, who was the 124th teacher there. One day he asked the teacher, ‘In the scriptures which I have been reading since I began here, there are various different teachings about the day of the Buddha’s birth. Which day of which month is the right one?’ The teacher said, ‘Don’t talk about different teachings. When you see the nature to be Buddha, that is the birth of the World-honoured One.’ TESTS (1) If you say, See the nature to be Buddha, immediately a snake with two heads appears. Are the nature and the Buddha the same or different? If the same, why does it have to tell you to see the nature to be Buddha? If there is a difference, say wherein it is, that seeing the nature is something separate from being Buddha. (2) …

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Sameness – Koan 46

No. 46. Sameness In the first year of Shunyu (1241) of the Southern Sung Dynasty, priest Rankei (afterwards Zen Master Daikaku) came to a desire to carry Zen to the east; and in March, with five attendants (Gio, Ryosen, Ryuko, Taimon, Kotsugo) he set sail to the east for Hizen (present-day Nagasaki). But when they were passing the coast off Shantung they encountered a typhoon which sank their boat. They managed to transfer to the ship (Hachiman) which was making the same voyage, and in the 4th year of Kangen (1247), on the twenty-fourth day of the seventh month, they arrived at Hakata in Kyushu. (On the first boat) going east to Hizen, when the boat was being driven along by a raging wind and spun round its length by the furious waves, the passengers were terrified, and many had an aspect like death. Rankei was saying again and again …

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The basic truth of Buddhism – Koan 48

No. 48. The basic truth of Buddhism A knight of Ofuna and a student of Zen, Kono Sadakuni, who was avoided by people because of his hasty temper, once came to Master Setsuo, the 25th master at Kenchoji temple, and shouted at the top of his voice: ‘What is the basic truth of Buddhism?’ The teacher told his attendant to light the stove, and said, ‘Come nearer, come nearer.’ The knight again asked, ‘The basic truth of Buddhism – what is it?’ The teacher beckoned to the attendant to serve him with tea and cakes. He asked again: ‘The basic truth of Buddhism — what is it?’ The teacher told the attendant to serve him rice. Then the knight said, ‘I thank you indeed for your so courteous hospitality. But unfortunately I have still not been told what is the basic truth of Buddhism.’ The Master said: ‘The basic truth …

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Reading one’s own mind – Koan 50

No. 50. Reading one’s own mind A mountain hermit, Jokai of Suwa in Shinano Province, made a visit to Zenkoji and had an interview with priest Koho. He said: ‘I have been living on Mount Mitake in Shinano for twenty years practising the arts of the mountain hermits, and now I can easily boil sand and turn it into rice.’ The teacher said: ‘And I have been living here in this temple for twenty years practising the way of the alchemists of India, and now I can easily take up iron and turn it into gold.’ The hermit picked up one of the iron rods used as tongs in the stove and handed it to the teacher, saying, ‘Let us see you turn this to gold.’ The teacher at once took the hermit’s hand and pulled it on to the iron pot on the stove, saying, ‘Instead of my taking …

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Bukko’s death poem – Koan 57

No. 57. Bukko’s death poem On the first day of the ninth month of the ninth year of Koan (1286) Bukko, Teacher of the Nation (Kokushi), developed symptoms of illness which he realized he would not survive. He wrote a note to the Government officials and old friends to tell them that he would take his departure on the third day of that month. Just at dawn on the third day he wrote a poem for them: Buddhas and ordinary men are equally illusions. If you go looking for the true form, it is a speck of dust in the eye. The burnt bones of this old monk embrace heaven and earth; Do not scatter the cold ashes to mountain and sky. That night at the third watch he changed his robe and, sitting in the meditation posture, took up a brush and wrote: Coming, and no more going on: …

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The gravestone with no name – Koan 60

No. 60. The gravestone with no name The gravestone of the priest who founded Hokokuji, by his final instructions, records no name. There is just a great stone on top of the grave to mark the place. Thereafter many of the chief priests of Hokokuji followed this precedent of the founder, and there are many graves without any name on them. Uesugi Shigemitsu, a student of Zen, once came to Hokokuji and paid his respects to Hakudo, the 5th master there. He said: ‘At this temple there are gravestones with no name. It will mean that future generations will hardly be able to tell whose graves they are.’ The priest said: ‘After they are dead, what would the line of priests of this temple want with names? Have you not heard that it is said: “The four great rivers enter the ocean and lose their name”?’ The nobleman said: ‘But …

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How the sutra of the Resolution of the Brahma-king’s Doubt was put into the canon – Koan 65

No. 65. How the sutra of the Resolution of the Brahma-king’s Doubt was put into the canon Atsushige, a warrior who was a student of the Shingon (mantra) sect, came to Joraku temple and asked priest Jikusen about the koans made from scriptures in the so-called nyorai Zen or Buddha Zen. The teacher said: ‘They are of many kinds. One of them is this: When the Buddha had just been born, he said, “Above heaven or under heaven, I alone am the world-honoured one.” Then when he completed the path, he declared: “Wonderful! All beings have innately the nature of the wisdom of the Buddha.” ‘Then, before his entry into Nirvana, there was an incident when he held up a flower in his fingers, and there was a smile (from Mahakasyapa alone of the spectators). In this last case, the meaning of Zen was being presented without any involvement with …

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Pasting the charm on the heart – Koan 73

No. 73. Pasting the charm on the heart The hall of Yakushi (the Buddha of healing) at Shoganan temple at the pagoda of Hokokuji in Kamakura became widely renowned for its spiritual virtue against plague. After the fighting in the Genko era (1331), there was a succession of epidemics, and Yamanouchi Sadahira asked at the temple for a paper charm against sickness, adding: ‘I have heard that the charm has to be pasted up on the gate pillar of one’s house. But my own house has been completely burnt during the fighting, and now I have nowhere to live; I am camping under the trees in the valley, and have no gate pillar. So how and where can I stick this up?’ Daikyo, the priest of Shoganan, said: ‘Stick it on your heart.’ TEST The heart has no form: how can a charm be stuck on to it? This came …

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The lotus strainer – Koan 79

No. 79. The lotus strainer Yasunaga, a government official and a student of Zen, came to the Dragon Flower of the Golden Peak (the Shinsaiin hall in Jochiji temple) to pay his respects to priest Musho there. He told him: ‘These days the followers of Nichiren are saying that in the present degenerate Latter Days, the water of the dharma in the Buddha ocean has become polluted. It is so contaminated that the impurity must be strained off before it is drunk. The only pure water is what has been purified by being strained through the Lotus sutra, and this is the dharma taught by Nichiren. Is what they are saying right?’ The priest said: ‘Strain off the lotus.’ TESTS How would you strain off the lotus? When you have strained and drunk, say how you find it: cold or hot? This incident became a koan in Kamakura Zen at …

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Tanka’s Buddha-burning – Koan 94

No. 94. Tanka’s Buddha-burning (Translator’s note: Tanka was a Chinese Zen master who died in 824 AD, and was famous for having burnt a wooden Buddha to make a fire on a very cold winter night, there being no other fuel. For this he was severely reprimanded by the superintendent priest of the temple. The latter however found his own eyebrows falling off, a traditional sign of something spiritually wrong. There are many pictures of the Buddha- burning incident, including a most unconventional one by Fugai in Japan.) Norimasa, an artist training in Zen, was visiting the Shogatsuan temple of Kamegayatsu (the pagoda of Jufukuji temple) when he noticed a scroll depicting Tanka burning the Buddha. He asked about the meaning of Tanka’s Buddha-burning. Priest Ryozen, who was in charge of the temple, told him: ‘It is as a means to show how the physical form is destroyed, and with …

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