The One-Word charm of Enkakuji – Koan 29

An official who was administrator for Okura in the Kamakura district said to the great teacher Mugaku (afterwards Bukko, Teacher of the Nation):

‘In the twelfth month of the fourth year of Jijo (1180), the Minamoto general Raicho planned to build a new palace in Okura; Oba Kageyoshi who was in charge realized that he could not construct a whole new palace in time. So my ancestor, the prefect here, had one very large mansion from within this area which is now the temple compound of Enkakuji, transported to Okura to make up the great palace. This edifice was said to have been built originally in Shoryaku times (990), and in those ancient days Abe Yasuaki brushed a protective charm for the preservation of the house. It was nailed to the ridgepole, since when over the centuries it has had no upsets of fortune, and this miraculous protection is spoken of with awe. Today, the great edifice of Enkakuji has been erected, but the ridgepole is still without any charm on it. Would not the great Teacher bless us by writing a charm so that there may never be any disaster to the building?’

It is said that the teacher at once called his attendant Eibin to bring paper and ink, and brushed a single character.


What character is this charm of one word? Right now present that character to me, let me see it!

This became a koan in Kamakura Zen in the interviews of Gyokkei, the 52nd master at Enkakuji.

(Imai’s note: A good many of the pupils given this koan present to the teacher words like Buddha, Dharma, God, Water and so on, but none of these is passed. What the word is, is not preserved in the secret scrolls of the Zen sect: let people open the true eye, and see.)



Similar Posts