The Cat-Monster – Koan 33


When Odawara Castle fell to the attackers in the Meio period (the end of the fifteenth century), Akiko, who had been a maid in the service of Mori Fujiyori, the lord of the castle, escaped with a cat which had been her pet for years. She took refuge in the villa of the painter Takuma at Kinokubo by the Nameri River. She lived there some years, and then the cat became a wild supernatural monster which terrorized the people, finally even preying on infants in the village.

The local officials joined with the people in attempts to catch it, but with its strange powers of appearing and disappearing, the swordsmen and archers could find nothing to attack, and men and women went in dread day and night.

Then in December of the second year of Eisho (1505), priest Yakkoku went up on to the dais at Hokokuji and drew the picture of a cat, which he displayed to the congregation with the words:

‘As I have drawn it, so I kill it with a Katzu!, that the fears may be removed from the hearts of the people.’

He gave the shout, and tore to pieces the picture of the cat.

On that day a woodcutter in the valley near the Takuma villa heard a terrible screech; he guided a company of archers to the upper part of the valley, where they found the body of the cat-monster, as big as a bear-cub, dead on a rock. The people agreed that this had been the result of the master’s Katzu!


(1) How can tearing up a picture with a Katzu! destroy a living monster?

(2) That devil-cat is right now rampaging among the people, bewitching and killing them. Kill it quickly with a Katzu! Show the proof!

(Imai’s note: This is an exercise in the Katzu!)

This became a koan in Kamakura Zen at the interviews of Unei, the 174th master at Kenchoji.



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