Bokushu and the Empty-Headed Fool

Bokushu asked a monk, "Where have you recently come from?" The monk uttered, "Khats!" Bokushu said, "All right, I have now been treated to your mystic cry." Again the monk uttered, "Khats!" Bokushu said, "Three mystic cries, four mystic cries, what next?" The monk said nothing, so Bokushu gave him a clout with his hand and said, "You empty-headed fool!"

In Zen mondo (questions and answers) two things are freely used in an attempt to "awaken" an individual: the stick and the deep, sharp mystic shout phoneticaly rendered here as "khats!" For the monk to cry "khats!" in response to Bokushu's question was to issue a challenge to Bokushu's Zen. Bokushu, a Master, wanted to know, after three, four, or a thousand mystic cries, then what? The poor monk started like a lion but ended like a mouse. He had used the technique of his teacher, Rinzai, well known for his "khats!" but it was not his own "khats!" after all. After the second cry, the monk acknowledged defeat; he did not pretend. He may become a good disciple.


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