Bukko’s death poem – Koan 57

No. 57. Bukko’s death poem

On the first day of the ninth month of the ninth year of Koan (1286) Bukko, Teacher of the Nation (Kokushi), developed symptoms of illness which he realized he would not survive. He wrote a note to the Government officials and old friends to tell them that he would take his departure on the third day of that month.

Just at dawn on the third day he wrote a poem for them:

Buddhas and ordinary men are equally illusions.

If you go looking for the true form, it is a speck of dust in the eye.

The burnt bones of this old monk embrace heaven and earth; Do not scatter the cold ashes to mountain and sky.

That night at the third watch he changed his robe and, sitting in the meditation posture, took up a brush and wrote:

Coming, and no more going on:

Going, and no more returning.

With a mane of a million hairs, that lion appears:

With its mane of a million hairs, the lion roars.


  1. Bukko announced the moment of his death three days before. Now without any promptings, do you declare the time of your own departure. Say!

(Imai’s note: In this first question, the word ‘departure’ has to

be understood in its Zen sense.)

  1. The Teacher of the Nation said: ‘Buddhas and ordinary men are equally illusions.’ Now say: Is there someone who is not illusion, or is there not?

  2. Right now who is the one who makes the duality of the illusions? Say!

  3. The Teacher said, ‘The burnt bones of this old monk embrace heaven and earth.’ Now say: Who is this who embraces the old monk’s bones? Speak!

  4. The Teacher said: ‘With its mane of a million hairs, that lion appears, and roars.’ Now say: Where is this lion roaring right now?

This became a koan at the interviews of Daien, the 3rd master

at Enkakuji.

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