The Great Buddha of Haste – Koan161 min read

Michimasa, a warrior Zen student of Suwa, made a pilgrimage to the Great Buddha of Hase (Kamakura), and on the way back paid a visit to Enkakuji, where he had an interview with priest Daikyu (died 1289). He talked about the circumstances of the construction of the Great Buddha, and showed the paper charm which he had got from the temple there. The teacher asked what was the weight of the Great Buddha.

Michimasa said: ‘The Great Buddha has become worn away because these days it is exposed to wind and rain (after the destruction by storm of the wooden temple in which it was originally housed – Tr.). So its weight now cannot be what it was when the Buddha was newly made and installed in the hall. Today one cannot know just what its weight would be.’

The teacher said: ‘I am not asking about a Great Buddha which can be damaged by wind and rain, but about the Diamond Buddha who is now facing me.

The warrior said: ‘Twenty-seven kan (about 100 kg. – Tr.).’

‘What a featherweight!’ exclaimed the teacher. ‘How could you manage to carry a charm of the Great Buddha?’

Michimasa said: ‘Why, how heavy do I have to be to be able to carry a charm of the Great Buddha?’

The teacher said: ‘When you can weigh yourself against the Himalayas.’

TESTS

(1) What is the weight of the Great Buddha?

(2) How is the charm of the Great Buddha made?

(3) Weigh yourself against the Himalayas.

This became a koan in Kamakura Zen in the interviews of Tentaku, the 41st master of Enkakuji.

T.P.L