The four Dharma-worlds of a teacup – Koan 95

  1. No. 95. The four Dharma-worlds of a teacup

On the first day of the series of discourses on the Kegon sutra, the priest Ryokan (of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman shrine) came, and asked Seizan (Zen master Bukkan, the 39th master at Kenchoji) for an explanation of the four Dharma-worlds (of Ri the principle, Ji the event, Riji-muge where principle and event are interpenetrating, and Jijimuge where events interpenetrate each other).

The teacher said: ‘To explain the four Dharma-worlds should not need a lot of chatter.’

He filled a white cup with tea, drank it up, and smashed the cup to pieces right in front of the priest, saying, ‘Have you got it?’

The priest said: ‘Thanks to your here-and-now teaching, I have penetrated right into the realms of Principle and Event.’


  1. What is the truth of the four Dharma-worlds of the teacup? Say!

  2. Show the four Dharma-worlds in yourself.

This incident became a koan in Kamakura Zen at the interviews at Etsugan, the 75th master at Kenchoji.

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