The Great Katzu! of Master Toden – Koan 68

No. 68. The Great Katzu! of Master Toden

Yoriyasu was a swaggering and aggressive samurai. (Imai’s note: In the Nirayama manuscript of Bukedoshinshu and in some other accounts the name is given as Yorihara.) In the spring of 1341 he was transferred from Kofu to Kamakura, where he visited Master Toden, the 45th teacher at Kenchoji, to ask about Zen.

The teacher said, ‘It is to manifest directly the Great Action in the hundred concerns of life. When it is loyalty as a samurai, it is the loyalty of Zen. “Loyalty” is written with the Chinese character made up of “centre” and “heart”, so it means the lord in the centre of the man. There must be no wrong passions. But when this old priest looks at the samurai today, there are some whose heart centre leans towards name and money, and others where it is towards wine and lust, and with others it is inclined towards power and bravado. They are all on those slopes, and cannot have a centred heart; how could they have loyalty to the state? If you, Sir, wish to practise Zen, first of all practise loyalty and do not slip into wrong desires.’

The warrior said, ‘Our loyalty is direct Great Action on the battlefield. What need have we for sermons from a priest?’

The teacher replied, ‘You, Sir, are a hero in strife, I am a gentleman of peace — we can have nothing to say to each other.’

The warrior then drew his sword and said, ‘Loyalty is in the hero’s sword, and if you do not know this, you should not talk of loyalty.’

The teacher replied, ‘This old priest has the treasure sword of the Diamond King, and if you do not know it, you should not talk of the source of loyalty.’

The samurai said, ‘Loyalty of your Diamond Sword — what is the use of that sort of thing in actual fighting?’

The teacher jumped forward and gave one Katzu! shout, giving the samurai such a shock that he lost consciousness. After some time the teacher shouted again and the samurai at once recovered. The teacher said, ‘The loyalty in the hero’s sword, where is it? Speak!’

The samurai was over-awed; he apologized and took his departure.

(Imai’s note: In the account in the sixth volume of Gosan-

nyudoshu it is added that Yorihara wept and presented his sword in token of repentance.)


Right now before you is that samurai. Try a shout that the teacher may see the proof.

This became a koan in Kamakura Zen from the time of Koten, the 57th teacher at Kenchoji.

Similar Posts