Kotei Strikes a Monk

A student of Kassai came to visit Kotei and bowed. Kotei immediately struck the monk. The monk said, "I came especially to see you and paid homage with a bow. Why do you strike me?" Kotei struck the monk again and chased him from the monastery. The monk returned to his teach, Kassai, and told the story. "Do you understand or not?" asked Kassai. "No, I don't," answered the monk. "Fortunately, you do not understand," Kassai said. "If you did, I would be dumbfounded."

In ancient China it was the custom that when an individual came into the presence of one more illustrious, the individual would bow in respect. So the monk who visited Kotei bowed. Now the Zen Master usually has a Dharma sick, called a nyoi, which means "can be used as the mind wishes." It is a small stick made of bamboo or wood, and it is sometimes used for back-scratching, sometimes to awaken students. Kotei used his Dharma stick to strike the visiting monk. When the monk asked why, he received more of the same and was driven off. Kotei struck the monk to try to awaken him to his own inner reality. The student was wasting time bowing to others. His own teacher, Kassai, tried to conclude the lesson Kotei had begun, but still the monk failed to wake up.


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