Stingy in Teaching
A sensitive young physician in Tokyo named Kusuda one day met a college friend of his who had been studying Zen. After the preliminary greetings and felicitations the two were seated at the side of the road under a tree, conversing further. The young doctor abruptly stopped speaking, with concern written all over his face, turned to face his friend then asked what Zen was.
“I cannot tell you what it is,” the friend replied, “but one thing is for certain. If you understand Zen, you will not be afraid to die.”
“That’s fine,” said Kusuda relieved of his friends perceptiveness. “It’s exactly what I need to learn, can you recommend a good teacher that would impart this knowledge to me in the briefest time possible?”
His friend shook his head with an appeasing smile, “You are always in such a rush, but some things cannot be hastened.” Then after a second thought, he added, “Go seek out master Nan-in, he may be of some help.”
The very next day, as soon as he concluded his physician’s responsibilities, Kusuda went to call on Master Nan-in. Not entirely convinced however, he carried a dagger nine and a half inches long on his person to determine whether the teacher was truly unafraid of death.
Nan-in received Kusuda kindly and, when latter bowed with his hidden hand grasping the dagger with intent, the master observing the cold sweat on Kusuda’s forehead, he simply smiled and said: “Hello, friend. How are you? We haven’t seen each other for a long time!”
This perplexed Kusuda, who responded somewhat aghast: “But sir, we have never met before.”
“That’s right,” answered Nan-in pinning his eyes to Kusuda. “Ha, I mistook you for another physician who is receiving instruction here.”
With such a beginning, Kusuda had lost the momentum and his nerve to test Nan-in, so he reluctantly asked instead, if he might receive Zen instruction from the master.
Nan-in then instructed him: “Zen is not a difficult task. If you are a physician, treat your patients with kindness. That is Zen.”
Kusuda visited Nan-in three times after that. Each time Nan-in told him the same thing. “A physician should not waste time around here. Go home and take care of your patients.”
It was not clear to Kusuda how such teaching could remove the fear of death. So on the forth visit unable to constrain his displeasure, he complained: “My friend has told me that when one practices Zen one loses his fear of death. That’s the reason I sought Zen. I don’t mean to be disrespectful sir, but each time I’ve come here you’ve dismissed me with perfunctory words to take care of my patients. I know that much. If that is your so-called Zen, I am not going to visit you anymore.”
Nan-in smiled and patted the doctor’s back. “I have been too strict with you son. Let me give you a koan.” He presented Kusuda with Joshu’s Mu to work over, which is the first mind-enlightening problem in the book called The Gateless Gate.
Kusuda pondered this problem of Mu (No-Thing) for two years. At length he thought he had reached certainty of mind. But his teacher again commented: “You are not in yet.”
Kusuda continued with his studies and practiced concentrating for another year and a half, during which time his mind became placid. Problems dissolved. No-Thing became the truth. He served his patients well and, without even knowing it, he was free from concern of life and death.
Then he visited Nan-in, his old teacher just smiled.
A monk once asked Joshu, “Has a dog the Buddha-nature?” Joshu answered, “Mu!” (Mu is the negative symbol in Chinese, meaning `No-thing’ or `Nay’.)