Saving Sajiwara’s Soul – Koan 3

On the fifteenth day of the seventh month of the sixth year of Kencho (1255), the rite of Feeding the Hungry Ghosts was being performed at the Karataka mountain gate of Kenchoji temple. When the sutra reading had been completed, however, priest Rankei (Master Daikaku) suddenly pointed to the main gate and shouted:

‘A knight has come through the gate. It is Kajiwara Kagetoki, of many treacheries. Bring him to salvation quickly!’

The monks all stared hard at the gate, but could see no knight there. Only the head monk shouted, ‘Clear to see!’ He left the line and went back to the Zen hall.

Then the teacher berated the others, saying:

‘Look at the crowds of you, supposed to be saving myriad spirits in the three worlds, and yet you cannot save one knight – blind clods! The rite must be performed again at the main gate, and the Heart Sutra recited in its original Sanskrit.’

So the whole ceremony was transferred from the mountain gate to the main gate, and the Sutra was recited there in Sanskrit.

After the recitation was over, the monks hurried to the Zen hall and asked the head monk, ‘How did you see the knight?’

He replied: ‘With the eye of the crown of the head, bright and clear!’


(1) Put aside for the moment the question of Kajiwara Kagetoki’s apparition at Kenchoji, do you see the knight coming galloping his horse across the garden to the interview room here? If you can, save him quickly!

(2) What was the virtue of chanting the sutra in Sanskrit at the main gate? Say!

(Imai’s note: The point of this second test is, Can chanting the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit bring salvation to Kajiwara, or can it not? He who says it can, shows that he will have to come under the teacher’s hammer yet again. Until one has passed this koan, his reading of the sutras, whether as monk or layman, is equally meaningless. The koan must not be taken lightly.)

This first became a koan in Kamakura Zen at the interviews of Daisetsu, the 47th master of Kenchoji.



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