Putting out the fire in Hell Valley – Koan 11

In the third month of the tenth year of Koan (1287) Master Bukkaku built the Eshunan sub-temple in the place called Hell Valley. It had been the execution ground when the Minamoto shogun Yoritomo founded his government, and the people had a deep dread of the place, as haunted by lost spirits of the executed.

After the sub-temple had been built there, the presence of the lost spirits manifested as an appearance of blue flame coming from under the floor of the kitchen. The teacher was therefore asked to hold a memorial service for them.

That evening he bent double and crept under the floor, pissed on the herd of demons who were visible in the flame, and came out. The magic flame was put out, and never appeared again, and the local people called this the Pissing Memorial Service of Eshunan.


(1) The blue flame at Eshunan was put out long ago, but right now, under my stove here, a crowd of lost spirits has appeared. What will you do as a memorial service for them, and what will you do to save them? Say!

(2) If as the story says, in the old days they had to use piss and shit for a mere memorial service, what would they use for the rite of salvation? Show the proof!

This incident became a koan in Kamakura Zen from the interviews of Kosen, the 38th master of Kenchoji.



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