Suigan's Eyebrows

Suigan, at the end of the summer retreat, said to his disciples, "The whole summer I have lectured you. Look! Has Suigan any eyebrows?" [Have I lost face by talking too much?] Hofuku said, "A robber knows, in his heart, that he is a thief." Chokei said, "Far from dropping off, they have grown longer." But Unmon shouted, "KAN!"

The essence of Zen cannot be explained by words. One has to experience it. Hot and cold are learned only by touch; sweet and sour, only by taste. Explanations are, after all, a waste of time, and Suigan sense that his solictous kindheartedness led him to excesses. The first monk agrees with him. So does the second, though with sarcasm. Then Unmon warns, "KAN!" ("a roadblock!") You cannot get through by talking. Nirvana must be realised.


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