The rite of the Wind God at Kamakura – Koan 28

In the second year of Kangi (1229) there were portents of evil in the East of Japan. On the sixth day of the seventh month there was a frost at Kamakura, and at Kanago district in Musashi province, flakes of snow fell. The diviners searched the records, to find that in the 39th year of the reign of the Emperor Kogen (reigned 214–158 BC) snow had fallen in June, and there had been a great snowfall in June of the 34th year of the Empress Suiko (592–628), and another in the same month of the eighth year of the era called Engi (the middle part of the reign) of Emperor Daigo (897–930). At these times there had been a bad year, the people in distress and fighting breaking out between local gangs. The diviners gave grave warnings that the omens portended calamities of a similar nature, with starvation and insurrection. Hojo Yasutoki was deeply disturbed. Then an official messenger from Mino brought a report from headman Makida that a sudden and intense fall had covered the ground in snow more than a foot deep.

At this Yasutoki was still more anxious, and he had prayers said in the great temples to avert disaster, but to no avail, for the next year in the fifth month, storms and floods continued for several weeks, and the whole land and everything in it was in great straits. Yasutoki now had the Esoteric ceremonies for salvation in crisis performed at all temples, and had the Heart Sutra read continuously by the priests at Tsurugaoka Hachiman shrine. But the force of the wind did not abate.

Then he proposed to perform a sacred rite to the wind god at the stone torii at Yui-ura; he put the magistrate Yasusada in charge, and to help him ordered the priest Gyoyu (the second master of Jufukuji, and also an expert in the Esoteric Shingon ceremonies, of which he had been a priest before he entered Zen) to put together a text for the rite.

It happened that Enni Joza (Zen master Shoichi) was staying temporarily and teaching Zen at the small temple Zokyoin within the Jufukuji temple compound, and he was famous for his Chinese learning. Gyoyu therefore asked him whether he would do it, to which he at once agreed, and taking up the brush, wrote:

All things are passing,
Their nature is to arise and end;
When arising and ending come to an end,
That Nirvana is bliss.

 Gyoyu looked at this and said doubtfully: ‘But this is the verse from the funeral service!’

Enni said: ‘We want to have a funeral for the wind devil. Why should we just imitate others when we compose the text for the rite?’

Then Gyoyu and Enni went together, and on the dais of the rite of the wind god, they recited the funeral verse. It is said that the wind immediately changed and dropped.

This is an old Zen story, to engage the idle moment. It is easily misunderstood. Right now, here in these Jewel Deer hills, hurricanes and floods are rising, and our Enkakuji here is on the verge of being overwhelmed! I have to perform the rite of the wind god. Let each one of you bring me a verse with which I can give a funeral to the wind devil.


(1) Where does the wind arise from? Say!

(2) Where does the wind devil live? Say!

(3) What does the wind devil look like?

(4) After the funeral, where does the wind devil go back to? Say!

(5) Give me a funeral verse – compose it now!

This first became a Kamakura koan at the interviews of Kosen, the 29th teacher at Enkakuji.



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