The Buddha-heart relics – Koan 53

No. ’53. The Buddha-heart relics

In the first year of Daiei (1521), Lord Hojo Ujitsuna built a great temple (the Sounji at Odawara) at the foot of Mount Hakone, with the idea of wresting religious supremacy from the great temples of the Kanto area (which includes Kamakura). At the time it was widely known that there was a Buddha tooth relic at Enkakuji. Lord Ujitsuna thought he would like to get this and install it in a pagoda built for the purpose, so he sent Fujita Koresada as an envoy to Enkakuji, with the request that the Buddha tooth relic be transferred. Priest Ekiho interviewed him, and told him:

The Buddha tooth relic is an old treasure of the temple, and I should never dare to move it. But I do have the relic ashes of the Buddha-heart, and if Your Excellency should desire, I can pass them over.’

The envoy went back and told this to the Lord, who somewhat suspiciously told him to ask for them. Tomita accordingly returned to Enkakuji, armed with formal instructions, and on arriving at Enkakuji he asked for the Buddha- heart relics. Ekiho, who was the 153rd master there, saw him, and casually assented. He had tea and cakes served to Tomita, who after drinking the tea said, ‘I request that I may be given the ashes now so that I can return at once.’

The priest suddenly shook his whole body and gave a tremendous Katzu! shout, on which the envoy lost consciousness, and did not revive.

The registrar at Enkakuji temple sent a report to Odawara castle saying: ‘His Excellency the envoy today was struck by the relics, and died.’


Right now the envoy is in front of you. Try striking the relics at him. Prove it!

(Imai’s note: This is a training in the Katzu! shout.)

This incident became a koan in Kamakura Zen at the interviews of Keisho, the 153rd master at Enkakuji.

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