Wednesday, January 19, 2011

If you mimic someone else, your Zen is dead.

The Rinzai Roku is a collection of the teachings of Master Rinzai (Lin Ji in Chinese), who lived in China in the 9th century. He was the founder of what would be known in Japan as the Rinzai School of Zen.

One day a visitor asked to Yamaoka Tesshu to comment for him about the Rinzai Roku. Master Tesshu told him that an other Zen Master Kosen Roshi was lecturing on this regularly in Kamakura. The visitor told him that he wanted to hear his lecture.

Tesshu agreed and took his guest to the dojo. There he demonstrated Muto Ryu swordsmandhip with one of his disciples in front of the visitor. 

"So, what do you think of my lecture about the Records of Rinzai ?" Asked Tesshu.

The visitor, impressed by the demonstration - did not answer. 
Tesshu kept on : "Since I am a samurai and swordsman, I best can explain Master Rinzai's teachings through Kendo (literally "the Way of the Sword). No matter how powerful is your intellect, if you mimic someone else, your Zen is dead..."

I have read 2 versions of this story - This one in "The sword of no sword" by John Stevens. In the other in "An introduction to Zen training" by Omori Sogen, Tesshu invites his guest to a sword bout. No wonder the visitor was left speechless... Yamaoka Tesshu was considered the best swordsman of his era.

Compare this with the story of the Nun Shido who, when asked by the Abbott of the Enkakuji temple to discourse about the same Rinzai Roku, drew her Short sword and told him: "I am a woman of warrior lineage and I should only declare our teaching when really face to face with a drawn sword. What book should I need?"
It is very likely that Master Tesshu was aware of this story as it is part of a collection of Early Warrior Koans - of which he owned a sample.

This is important, and refreshing :

"If you mimic someone else, 
your Zen is dead..."

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