A Monk Is Rejected

A monk approached Seppo and made a formal bow. Seppo hit the monk five times with his stick. The monk asked, "Where is my fault?' The Master struck the monk five additional blows and dismissed him with a loud, "Khats!"

The Zen way of teaching is without text, beyond words, from mind to mind in direct contact with the core of life. Zen often uses blows and shouts as well as koans and mondos. Rinzai is famous for his "khats" and Tokusan for his blows. The monk who came to Seppo and made a formal bow was paying the form of greeting and respect proper in Japan and in ancient China. In the West we greet each other by shaking hands, and in Buddhist countries, such as Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, and India, the Buddhists put their palms together in greeting (not in prayer). But Seppo gave the monk five blows. Naturally, the monk was surprised and asked why. For answer he received another five blows and a "khats" in addition. If a greeting comes from an awakened person, it has a profound meaning. But this monk, like so many of us, simply performed a meaningless formality. The number of blows the Master gave has no meaning. The first five were shallow; the second five had deeper meaning. The "khats!" means "wake up!"


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