The source of heaven – Koan 43

No. 43. The source of heaven

In the first year of Sho-an (1299) Priest Ka-o built at Kenchoji the Tengen (Source of Heaven) retreat. On the day of the ridgepole raising, the Lord of Tango, Koremasa, came to see it, and he said,

I hear that the retreat has been named Source of Heaven. But is there any source from which comes heaven itself?’ ‘There is, there is,’ said the priest; ‘does Your Grace wish to see it?’

The nobleman said, ‘Then I ask you to show me.’

The priest caught hold of him, and picking up a block of wood, hit him on the crown of the head with it twice. The nobleman had a realization from the blow, and said,

By your grace this old knight could go beyond the thirty- three heavens and reach their source.’


  1. Where is the way to the source of heaven?

  2. What is the meaning of the two blows on the crown of the head? If it is just a means to enlighten another, one would do, or three, or four, or thirty would be all right. Why did Priest Ka-o hit the Lord of Tango just twice?

This became a koan in Kamakura Zen at the interviews of Daiko, the 81st master at Kenchoji.

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