The dharma-interview of Nun Mujaku – Koan 51

No. 51. The dharma-interview of Nun Mujaku

In the Shoshusan traditions it is said that the nun Mujaku, before she had been ordained, used to visit the teacher Daiye (1089-1168) on Kinzan mountain, and would stop over in the priest’s quarters. (Daiye had seven women disciples, and Mujaku was the most beautiful — Imai.) The head monk Manan always objected strongly. Daiye said to him: ‘She is a woman but she has great virtue in her.’ Manan still did not approve. Daiye then insisted that he should interview her, and he reluctantly told her that he would come to see her.

When Manan came, Mujaku said: ‘Will you make it a dharma-interview, or a worldly interview?’

Manan replied: ‘A dharma-interview.’

Mujaku said: ‘Then let your attendants depart.’ She went in first, and then called to him to enter her room alone. When he came past the curtain he found Mujaku lying face upwards on the bed without anything on at all. He pointed at her and said: ‘What is there in here?’

Mujaku replied: ‘All the Buddhas of the three worlds and the six patriarchs and the great priests everywhere — they all come out from here.’

Manan said: ‘And would you let me enter, or would you not?’

Mujaku replied: ‘A donkey might pass: a horse may not pass.’

Manan said nothing, and Mujaku declared: ‘The interview with the head monk is ended.’ She turned over and showed her back.

Manan turned red and left.

Daiye said, ‘The old thing had some insight, didn’t she? She outfaced Manan.’


  1. Meditate on the spiritual inspiration in Mujaku’s dharma- interview, and declare it: Say!

  2. Manan stood silent: find a word to say for him.

This incident became a koan for the nuns at the interviews of the nun teacher Shotaku, a disciple of Daisen, the 17th master at Enkakuji and who became the third teacher at Tokeiji.

(Imai’s note: Mujaku and Manan both became well-known in the Zen world.)

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