The Rite of the Treasury of Space – Koan 20

The officer Nagayasu, who had a position at Jufukuji temple, remarked to Bukko’s attendant Eibin: ‘When the founder, National Teacher Bukko, came to Kamakura and began to teach at Jufukuji, he was so ridiculously short that many of the warriors despised him. At that time they greatly respected men of commanding physique, and had a corresponding contempt for a poor one. They say that the teacher regretted this, and undertook to perform the Esoteric rite called Treasury of Space, for one hundred days. When he first came into the hall to begin, his height was marked by a notch on the pillar in front of the hall, and when the period of a hundred days was up, his height was again measured. He was four inches taller.

‘Now in your case too, I can see that as you are very short, some of the warriors are bound to despise you. If you would consent to perform the rite of the Treasury of Space in the same way, and so increase your height, you would receive more reverence and faith from others.’

The attendant Bin said: ‘If I perform the rite of the Treasury of Space, how should my stature increase by only four inches? It would more than fill heaven and earth and the four directions.’

Nagayasu said: ‘How can that be?’

The attendant said: ‘In me there is no long or short. When long and great, heaven and earth put into it still do not fill it: when short and small, the tip of a hair can contain it. This is what is called the Treasury of Space.’


(1) How does the body become taller by performing the rite of the Treasury of Space?

(2) What did Bin mean when he spoke of great and small?

(3) The teacher Nanzan used to present this koan by saying: ‘Here and now, do you perform the rite of the Treasury of Space and increase your stature, to show the sixteen-foot form to me. Let me see it clearly!’

(Imai’s note: The sixteen-foot form does not refer to a physical height but means the body of the Buddha. In the Lotus sutra it says that the bodhisattva Kanzeon manifests the Buddha form. To those who are ready for enlightenment, at once he manifests the Buddha form to teach the dharma. So the meaning of the test is, to show some skilful means in this sense. This is how Imagita Kosen explained it.)

The incident became a koan at Kamakura in the interviews of Nanzan (Shiun, 1233–1335), the 11th master at Enkakuji.


Similar Posts