Freeing the ghost – Koan 100

No. 100. Freeing the ghost

In the first year of Einin (1293) Hirotada was taking as a koan the four phrases of the Diamond sutra:

If as a form he would see me,

Or by sound or word would seek me,

This one on the wrong path
Cannot see the Buddha.

He could not penetrate into it. He was sitting in meditation in the cave called Snowgate, which is one of the three near the Tosotsuryo, the tomb of the founder of Kenchoji. While he was unaware of anything in his samadhi, the ground opened and the timbers and stones of the building collapsed into the fissure, burying him. That night the apparition of Hirotada was seen before the hall of the founder, repeating Cannot see the Buddha, cannot see the Buddha without ceasing- The monk Mori Sokei, who had the position of jishinban, confronted the ghost and shouted one question, at which it suddenly vanished and never showed itself again.

(Imai’s note: In 1293 there was a great earthquake at Kamakura, during which the ground opened, bringing down buildings and killing many people. This was the occasion for the first of the great fires at Kenchoji.)


(1) Why did the head monk have to ask the question? Say!

  1. What is the connection between the question and Cannot see the Buddha? Say!

  2. What did Hirotada’s ghost realize that cleared the illusion and opened up realization? Say!

  3. If you yourself come face to face with a ghost, what will you say to free it?

Variation No. 100. Freeing the ghost

In the seventh year of the dan era (1374), Yorihisa went into a meditation retreat in the Enmei pavilion on Deer Mountain, outside the mountain gate of Enkakuji. His meditation was on the phrases of the Kegon sutra:

If one would know all the Buddhas of the three worlds,

Let him see the nature of the dharma, that all is the creation of mind alone

but he had not come to know the Buddhas of the three worlds. While he was sunk in meditation, it happened that the place caught fire, but he was not aware when the roof caught alight, and perished in the flames. That night the ghost of Yorihisa appeared in front of the temple gate intoning again and again All the Buddhas of the three worlds, all the Buddhas of the three worlds. The monk in charge of the temple gate reported this to the monks’ hall, and Karashigawa Soryu, who held the office of tanto, went to meet the ghost. He gave a great shout ‘Namu Yorihisa Butsu!’ (Reverence to Buddha Yorihisa!) and the apparition vanished abruptly and never appeared again.


  1. Where are all the Buddhas of the three worlds? Say!

  2. What is the nature of the dharma-world like? Say!

  3. Bring the proof of ‘mind-alone’.

  4. What is this about dharma-world nature being the creation of mind alone?

  5. The question which the monk at Kenchoji shouted with a Katzu! and the ‘reverence to Buddha Yorihisa’ of the Enkakuji head monk — are these ultimately the same thing or not? Explain!

  6. Right now in front of you is the ghost of Minamoto Yoshitsune. Set him free quickly, and show me the proof.

These incidents began to be set as koans in the interviews of

Daiin, the 158th teacher at Kenchoji.

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