Seppo's Punctuality

Seppo, the chief cook in Tokusan's monastery, was always punctual in serving the morning meal. One day Tokusan asked, "What makes you keep them time so accurately?" "I watch the stars and the moon," Seppo answered. "What if it rains or is foggy? What do you do then?" Tokusan asked. Seppo remained silent.

This koan concerns Seppo, a great Zen Master, while he was still a student under Tokusan. At a Zen monastery everyone shares the work. Here, Seppo was head cook. He was however, no novice in Zen. Master Tokusan's first question was like the expert thrust of a fencing master: it tested and taught at the same time. What makes you so accurate? Seppo parried, "I watched the stars and the moon." "What if," the master returned, "it rains?" Touché. Seppo lost the duel, but the Master's victory was helping to put the finishing touches on a future Master.


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