The paper sword – Koan 69

No. 69. The paper sword

In 1331 when Nitta Yoshisada was fighting against Hojo Sadatoki, a chief retainer of the Hojo family, named Sakurada Sadakuni, was slain. His wife Sawa wished to pray for the dead man; she cut off her hair and entered Tokeiji as the nun Shotaku. For many years she devoted herself to Zen under Daisen, the 17th master at Enkakuji, and in the end she became the 3rd teacher of Tokeiji. In the Rohatsu training week of December 1338 she was returning from her evening interview with the teacher at Enkakuji, when on the way a man armed with a sword saw her and was attracted by her beauty. He threatened her with the sword and came to rape her. The nun took out a piece of paper and rolled it up, then thrust it like a sword at the man’s eyes. He became unable to strike and was completely overawed by her spiritual strength. He turned to run and the nun gave a Katsu! shout, hitting him with the paper sword. He fell and then fled.


Show the paper sword which is the heart sword, and prove its actual effect now.

(Imai’s note: The manifestation of the paper sword as a real sword is from the cultivation of the Kikai Tanden (the elixir field in the energy seasee No. 92), and originally in Kamakura Zen all the teachers gave this test. Oishi Yoshina (of the 47 Ronin) took this koan under Master Bankei, and Araki Matauemon under Takuan at Nanshujiso it is reported in Shoso Manpitsu, vol. 7.

When Araki encountered Yagyu Tajimanokami, the latter was teacher of fencing to the Shogun, and it was the rule that any samurai who wished to meet him had to leave behind both swords in the waiting room. Informed of this, Araki took off his weapons. When he came before Yagyu, the latter wished to test his spirit, and suddenly challenged him to a duel, drawing his own weapon. According to the old accounts, Araki snatched up a piece of paper, rolled it up and was able to meet Yagyu with it as a sword. There is a widespread tradition in the Zen world about this contest, and it is accepted that Araki was able to manifest the paper as a sword by virtue of having taken this Kamakura koan of the paper sword under Master Takuan in his interview room.)

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