The charm – Koan 58

No. 58. The charm

In the Jowa era (1345-9) the Kamakura region was in great terror from raids of brigands in the aftermath of the civil war. At the request of the country people, some of the temples began to produce amulets, charms against robbers, for distribution to their followers.

But the Zen temples, which have never recommended such

things, refused to follow the lead of the other temples, and did not give out any amulets.

At the time, the Jizo at Saida was talked of far and wide for its spiritual power in warding off danger, and many people came to the temple to pray before it.

So Yuiheita Tomochika, a country samurai of Koshigoe, and a follower of Zen, during a visit to the Buddha hall had an audience with priest Kakkai, to make a request. He explained the general fear of robbers, and begged again and again that the priest would follow those of other temples, and give him an amulet charm. Then Kakkai at once took up a brush and wrote a single character on a piece of paper, sealed it, and gave it to him as a charm.

Yuiheita reverently put it to his head. Then, it is said, for two nights he meditated till he penetrated into it, and so became completely free of fear.


  1. What could be the virtue of a single character as a charm?

  2. What was that one character on which Yuiheita meditated and became free of fear?

This became a koan at the interviews of Daisetsu, the 69th master at Kenchoji.

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