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 Hokokuji and drew the picture of a cat, which he displayed to the congregation with the words: ‘As I have drawn it, so I kill it with a Katzu!, that the fears may be removed from the hearts of the people.’ He gave the shout, and tore to pieces the …

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The Nyo-I Sickle of Enkakuji – Koan 32

Ujihira, a steward of the Hojo Regent, one day visited Enkakuji and told Bukko about the name Kamakura, which means literally Sickle-store (kama = sickle; kura = store): In ancient times, there was born at Hitachi a man named Kamatari, and when he was young he went to the capital and served at the palace, where he assisted with great devotion in the great affairs of state. The Emperor Tenchi in the eighth year of his reign (669 AD) gave him the new name of Fujiwara, and his house prospered exceedingly. He undertook a pilgrimage to the shrine of Kashima in Hitachi, and on the way back stopped at the village of Yui in Musashi province, where he had a wonderful dream. As a token he buried a sickle (kama) at Matsugaoka of O-kura, and thereafter the place was called Kama-kura. The teacher said: ‘That sickle – where is it now?’ The official said: ‘That was all long ago when the place belonged to the great Fujiwaras. No one would go searching for it now.’ The teacher said: ‘That sickle has found its way into the main temple at Enkakuji, and I can put my hand on it now.’ The …

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The very first Jizo – Koan 31

Sakawa Koresada, a direct retainer of the Uesugi family, entered the main hall at Kenchoji and prayed to the Jizo-of-a-Thousand-Forms there. Then he asked the attendant monk in charge of the hall: ‘Of these thousand forms of Jizo, which is the very first Jizo?’ The attendant said, ‘In the breast of the retainer before me are a thousand thoughts and ten thousand imaginings; which of these is the very first one?’ The samurai was silent. The attendant said again, ‘Of the thousand forms of Jizo, the very first Jizo is the Buddha-lord who is always using those thousand forms.’ The warrior said, ‘Who is this Buddha-lord?’ The attendant suddenly caught him and twisted his nose. The samurai immediately had a realization. TESTS (1) Which is the very first Jizo out of the thousand-formed Jizo? (2) Which is the very first out of the thousand thoughts and ten thousand imaginings? (3) What did Koresada realize when his nose was twisted? This became a koan at the interviews of Koken, the 61st master at Kenchoji. T.P.L

Mirror Zen – Koans 30

(Imai’s Introduction: At the beginning of the Jokyu era (1219), fifty days before the fighting broke out, the Nun Shogun (Hojo Masako) had a dream of a great mirror floating in the waves off Yui beach, and a voice coming from it: ‘I am the voice of the great shrine, and what is to happen in the world is seen in me. There is a war imminent, and the army must be mobilized. If Yasutoki polishes me, he will be victorious and bring about a great peace.’ On hearing this dream, Yasutoki sent Hatanojiro Tomosada as an emissary to the great shrine at Yui beach, to pray for the peace of the land. When the Jokyu rebellion had been put down, Yasutoki had a mirror made with a circumference of six foot, following the description of the spirit mirror given by the Nun Shogun of her vision, and it was installed in the shrine of Tsurugaoka Hachiman. Later when Shido (of the household of Tokimune) founded the Tokeiji convent-temple, the great mirror was reported to have been moved there and set up in a special mirror hall. But in fighting afterwards between Hojo Hayagumo and Miura Michisu, the temple was …

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The One-Word charm of Enkakuji – Koan 29

An official who was administrator for Okura in the Kamakura district said to the great teacher Mugaku (afterwards Bukko, Teacher of the Nation): ‘In the twelfth month of the fourth year of Jijo (1180), the Minamoto general Raicho planned to build a new palace in Okura; Oba Kageyoshi who was in charge realized that he could not construct a whole new palace in time. So my ancestor, the prefect here, had one very large mansion from within this area which is now the temple compound of Enkakuji, transported to Okura to make up the great palace. This edifice was said to have been built originally in Shoryaku times (990), and in those ancient days Abe Yasuaki brushed a protective charm for the preservation of the house. It was nailed to the ridgepole, since when over the centuries it has had no upsets of fortune, and this miraculous protection is spoken of with awe. Today, the great edifice of Enkakuji has been erected, but the ridgepole is still without any charm on it. Would not the great Teacher bless us by writing a charm so that there may never be any disaster to the building?’ It is said that the teacher …

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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. Hojo Yasutoki was deeply disturbed. Then an official messenger from Mino brought a report from headman Makida that a sudden and intense fall had covered the ground in snow more than a foot deep. At this Yasutoki was still more anxious, and he had prayers said in the great temples …

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The God Hachiman – Koan 27

After paying a visit to worship at the shrine of Hachiman at Tsurugaoka, Oba Kagemitsu (a descendant of the Oba Kageyoshi who had been in charge of the construction of the Hachiman shrine) called at Enkakuji and had an interview with National Teacher Bukko. The teacher asked: ‘Which way does Hachiman face?’ Kagemitsu said: ‘He faces the Great Teacher directly.’ The teacher covered his face with his fan and said: ‘How is it now?’ (Imai’s note: When the teacher is dead) Kagemitsu hesitated. The teacher snapped the fan shut and hit him on the forehead with it. Kagemitsu had a realization, made a salutation and left. TEST How could that blow by Bukko, Teacher of the Nation, be the occasion of a realization? This incident was first given as a koan in Kamakura Zen by priest Nei-issan, 7th master at Enkakuji, to the Ajari (Tendai priest) Hayashi Kobo Ryotatsu. T.P.L  

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