The judgment of Yama – Koan 61

No. 61. The judgment of Yama

The shrine of Yama (judge of the dead) on Mt Mikoshi at Yui in Kamakura was transferred by Lord Ashikaga Takauji to Arai, where it was installed with a consecration ceremony. On that occasion Nobuchika, a student of Zen, entered the shrine and asked the priest in charge:

King Yama, we are told, is in hell where he passes judgment on the sinners from this world. But what Buddha is it who passes judgment on the sin of King Yama?’

The priest had no words.


(1) Bring a word for the priest.

(2) What sin would there be in Yama? Say!

This incident became a koan in Kamakura Zen in the interviews of priest Soden, namely Zen master Chikaku of Enkakuji.

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