Cutting Trees

Seppo went to the forest to cut trees with his disciple, Chosei. "Do not stop until your ax cuts the very centre," Seppo warned. "I have cut it," the disciple replied. "The old Masters transmitted the teachings to their disciples from heart to heart," Seppo continued. "How about your own case?" Chosei threw his ax to the ground, saying, "Transmitted." The teacher took up his walking stick and struck his beloved disciple.

Students learn Zen not only while sitting in meditation or listening to lectures, but while doing their daily tasks as well. By "the very centre" Seppo meant the centre of man, of Mind, as well as of tree. Before the teacher had finished his warning, Chosei said, "I have cut it." Seppo changed the subject and asked his disciple whether or not the teaching had been transmitted to him. Chosei needed Seppo's warning after all, for he was still attached to the idea of "transmission." If only he had thrown away the "transmission" as he did the ax! The tree is cut by an ax, but the mind must be cut by Mind. So Seppo chastised his beloved disciple.


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