The Last Poem of Hoshin

One day Master Hoshin predicted his own death in seven days. On the seventh day he called his disciples together and said, "It is customary to write a farewell poem, but since I am neither poet nor calligrapher, one of you please write my last poem." Then he dictated. "I came from brilliancy and return to brilliancy. What is this?" The monk who was writing these words said, "Master, the poem is one line short." Hoshin shouted, "Khats!" and was dead.

Hoshin went to China where he studied Zen for many years. After he returned to Japan, he taught in the northeastern region. Prior to the incident described in the koan, he related the following story to his disciples, a story he had heard in China: "One year, on December 25, the Zen monk Tofuku, who was very old, said to his disciples, 'Next year I am not going to be with you, so you people should treat me well this year.' The students thought it was a joke, but they treated the kind old teacher well anyway. On New Year's eve of the next year Tofuku said, 'I am leaving tomorrow when the snow stops.' The disciples laughed and thought he was becoming slightly senile. But at midnight, it started to snow. The next morning they could not find the Master. They finally went to the meditation hall. There, Tofuku had passed away." In relating this tory Hoshin commented that a Zen Master can, although it is not necessary, predict his own death, as he now was doing.

The last words Hoshin left express the Buddhist concept of future life. He came from brilliancy and returns to brilliancy. Life is eternal. We came from eternal life, and we will return to the eternal life. We are living the eternal life now, but due to our ignorance we do not know it.


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