The sermon of Nun Shido – Koan 87

No. 87. The sermon of Nun Shido

At the Rohatsu training week of 1304 at Enkakuji, Master Tokei (‘Peach-tree Valley’ — the fourth teacher of Enkakuji) gave his formal approval (inka) as a teacher to the nun Shido, the founder of Tokeiji. The head monk did not approve of the inka being granted, and asked a question to test her:

In our line, one who receives the inka gives a discourse on the Rinzairoku classic. Can the nun teacher really brandish the staff of the Dharma in the Dharma-seat?’

She faced him, drew out the ten-inch knife carried by all women of the warrior class, and held it up: ‘Certainly a Zen teacher of the line of the patriarch should go up on the high seat and speak on the book. But I am a woman of the warrior line and I should declare our teaching when really face to face with a drawn sword. What book should I need?’

The head monk said, ‘Before father and mother were born, with what then will you declare our teaching?’

The nun closed her eyes for some time. Then she said, ‘Do you understand?’

The head monk said in verse:

A wine-gourd has been tipped right up in Peach-tree Valley; Drunken eyes see ten miles of flowers.’


  1. Before father and mother were born, what was the sermon? Say!

  2. Listen to the sermon of the nun Shido.

These two tests were used from the time of Daisen, the 17th teacher in Enkakuji itself, but at Tokeiji two more were added in the interviews of the nun teacher Shotaku:

  1. What is the meaning of the poem made by the head monk?

  2. Are its two lines praise or criticism?

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