The Exact Moment for Hatching

A young monk came to Master Kyosei and said, "This disciple is pecking on the inside of the shell, ready to hatch. I beg you, sir, help me by knocking on the outside of the shell." Kyosei said, "If I do, will you attain life?" The monk said, "If I don't, that will be your shortcoming, and you will become the laughing stock of the world." To this Kyosei replied, "Conceited fool!"

This koan is both interesting and important. Every Zen Master has his own way of teaching. The teacher must know the student's disposition, degree of progress, and when he is at the crucial point. A teacher may easily crush a student by wrong application of teaching or by wrong timing, and that person will never rise again. However, the ego self must be killed in order for one to live a new life of true reality. For this reason it is said that a Zen Master has a double-edged sword - one that both kills and gives life. This sword must be used very exactly.

The monk in this koan thinks he is ready for enlightenment and asks his teacher to give the last push. But Kyosei knows exactly where this student stands. The very fact of self-conceit is a sign of unreadiness. Even if this monk were enlightened, he would attach to enlightenment and still not be free; he might even mislead others. Kyosei knows when to knock on the shell.


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