Heaven and earth broken up – Koan 70

No. 70. Heaven and earth broken up

Tadamasa, a senior retainer of Hojo Takatoki the Regent, had the Buddhist name Anzan (quiet mountain). He was a keen Zen follower and for twenty-three years came and went to the meditation hall for laymen at Kenchoji. When the fighting broke out everywhere in 1331, he was wounded in one engagement, but in spite of the pain galloped to Kenchoji to see Sozan, the 27th teacher there. A tea ceremony was going on at Kenchoji, and the teacher seeing the man in armour come in, quickly put a teacup in front of him and said, ‘How is this?’

The warrior at once crushed it under his foot and said, ‘Heaven and earth broken up altogether.’

The teacher said, ‘When heaven and earth are broken up, how is it with you?’

Anzan stood with his hands crossed over his breast. The teacher hit him, and he involuntarily cried out from the pain of his wounds.

The teacher said, ‘Heaven and earth not quite broken up yet.’

The drum sounded from the camp across the mountain, and Tadamasa galloped quickly back. The next evening he came again, covered with blood, to see the teacher. The teacher came out and said again,

When heaven and earth are broken up, how it is with you?’ Anzan, supporting himself on his blood-stained sword, gave a great Katzu! and died standing in front of the teacher.


When heaven and earth are broken up, how is it with you? (Imai’s note: In the Bukeddshinshu, the version is: When the elements of the body are dispersed, where are you?)

This began to be used as a koan in the interviews of priest Jikusen, the 29th master of Kenchoji.

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