Ganto's Ax

One day Tokusan told his student Ganto, "I have two monks who have been here for many years. Go and examine them." Ganto picked up an ax and went to the hut where the two monks were meditating. He raised the ax, saying, "If you say a word I will cut off your heads. If you do not say anything, I will also behead you." Both monks continued their meditation as if he had not spoken. Ganto dropped the ax and said, "You are true Zen students." He returned to Tokusan and related the incident. "I see your side well," Tokusan agreed, "but tell me, how is their side?" "Tozan may admit them," replied Ganto, "but they should not be admitted under Tokusan."

Ganto is Tokusan's student, and how Ganto investigates the two monks is, in itself, a good test for Ganto. Though Ganto threatened to decapacitate the monks, they continued to meditate. He concluded that they were true students. But when questioned by Master Tokusan, Ganto's answer was ironic: Tozan (a kind, gentle Master) may admit them, but Tokusan (well known for his rough blows) would not. If hitting is the way to awaken students, then carts pulling horses are all Buddhas. Ganto challenged his teacher. A Master can be bitten by his own dog. Clearly, there were two schools on how to approach Zen. 


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