No. 96. The diamond realm
In the twentieth year of Oei (1313), on the evening of the seventh day of the Rohatsu (December training week), Suketaka Nyudo, a Zen layman training there, crept into the Buddha hall at Kenchoji and stole the delicacies from the altar to make up for the poor food. However, the monk in charge of the hall happened to come back, and caught him. He said to him: ‘According to the Rohatsu rules, this week is the strictest time of the whole year. For you to steal the food from the Buddha hall at a time like this is no small crime. But I will put a question to you, and if you can answer, I will let you off.’
Suketaka replied, ‘Out with it then.’
The monk said, ‘What is it, your taking the food like this?’ The other answered, ‘The universal body (dharma-kaya) eats the cakes, the cakes eat the dharma-kaya.’
The monk said, ‘Is the difference between you and the universal body large or small?’
Suketaka said, ‘The taste of the salt in the water: the transparent glue which holds the colours of the paints.’
The monk said, ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ Suketaka said, ‘A gust of wind — the more you try to paint it the more you fail.’
The monk said, ‘Let’s try to paint it.’
The samurai then said, ‘The diamond realm.’
The monk said, ‘The diamond realm – what’s that?’ Suketaka replied, ‘Going into the fire it does not burn; going into the water, it does not drown.’
The monk of the hall said, ‘Let us try a test on you.’ He took a bundle of incense sticks (at that period it would be 200 sticks — Imai), set them alight and put them on the other’s head. The warrior leapt up and ran out towards the training hall; he tripped and fell into the big Sleeping Dragon well at the bottom of the steps.
The monk put the lid on the well and cried, ‘Just now you were saying that in fire it does not burn, and in water it does not drown. Now say quick, what is the diamond realm!’ Suketaka could find no reply.
Say something of your own on the diamond realm in the fire.
Say something of your own on the diamond realm in the water.
Say something of your own on the diamond realm on the edge of a sword.
Say something of your own on the diamond realm in the wineshop and in the brothel.
Say something on the diamond realm on the thirtieth day of Rohatsu (after death).
Say something on the diamond realm in the screams of hell.
That thieving man said, ‘The dharma-body eats the cakes; the cakes eat the dharma-body.’ What should these words really mean?
Again he said, ‘A gust of wind — the more you try to paint it the more you fail.’ What is the essential principle in this?
This first became a koan in Kamakura Zen at the interviews of Daiju, the 157th teacher at Kenchoji.