Tozan’s Who’s-This? – Koan 93

No. 93. Tozan’s Who’s-This?

At the end of the Genko period (1331-4) there was continuous fighting. People were in peril of their lives, and no one’s heart was at rest. The village people began to throng to the temples, where they prayed to be spared from disaster. In various sects there appeared crafty priests, who preyed on the fears of the people by organizing prayer meetings where they sold charms. In these ways they enriched their temples. Many of these clever talkers were active among the people. And some of the Zen laymen began to be caught up in the same ideas, taking to coming into the main hall and praying to be spared, or else to be resigned to whatever might come. In this way they neglected the true Buddha within.

At this time master Nanzan (the 20th teacher at Kenchoji), concerned at the loss of the spirit of Zen, began to give the ‘Who’s-This?’ sermon of Tozan as a koan to Zen laymen when he met them. Kuribune was one who worked at it for a long time, and in the end grasped it.

THE WHO’S-THIS? SERMON Zen master Tozan (the Chinese master known in Japan as Goso Hoen) said: Shakya and Maitreya are fine fellows, but how about Who’s-This?


  1. What are Shakya and Maitreya?

  2. What is this Who’s-This?

  3. What is this ‘fellow’?

  4. What am I?

  5. Who is this ‘Who’s-This?’

  6. Who’s-This Shakya, and Maitreya?

  7. What does master Tozan really mean?

  8. Make a comment of your own on what Tozan said. (Imai’s comment: The fact that master Nanzan gave this to his warrior pupils appears in the Bukedoshinshii (the 17th volume in the Nirayama copy). It became a koan at Kamakura after this teacher.)

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