Really before the eyes – Koan 62

No. 62. Really before the eyes

Realizing he was about to die, Priest Nanshu, on the twenty- first day of the first month of the first year of Kagen (1303) made his death poem in the verse:

T’ang (China) and Japan,

Sixty-three years;

If you want to know it,

See what is before your eyes.


What does this Before Your Eyes really mean?

This death poem became a koan at the interviews of Donpu, the 45th Master at Enkakuji.

(Imai’s note: Nanshu s real name was Kokai, and his posthumous name was Zen Master Shinno; he was the successor to Gottan and founded the subtemple Zounan at Jochiji. When he was there he used to handle Zen inquirers without giving any classical koan at all, and he would test the warrior pupils with the words: If you want to know it, See what is before your eyes. This appears as the second half of his death poem also.

In the Soringakki account it is entitled the Koan Of Before The Eyes, but in this Shonankattoroku it is given as Really Before The Eyes.)

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