Buddhistic Age

One day Master Nansen delayed taking his seat in the dining room. His disciple and chief monk, Obaku, took the Master's seat instead of his own. Nansen said, "That seat belongs to the oldest monk in this monastery. How old are you?" "My age goes back to the time of the prehistoric Buddha," responded Obaku. "Then," Nansen said, 'you are my grandson. Move down." Obaku gave the seat to Nansen but took the place next to it for his own.

This koan demonstrates the manner in which, at a monastery, the monks constantly challenge each other's understanding of Zen. Constantly aware, they polish each other's wisdom until it is spotless. Obaku took his master's seat. When Nansen demanded his age, he was asking for Obaku's mental, not chronological, age. Obaku gave a tremendous answer, pointing to timelessness, the absolute. But Nansen was the Master, indeed, when he said, "move down, grandson." Obaku moved down - but only by one place - and even Nansen couldn't depose him. Zen always transcends the relative. It teaches independence and freedom.


Popular Posts