Unmovable Masters

ha ha ha!! I’m laughing as I have just read this quote from One Bird, One Stone:

A senior student who had been practicing with Seung Sahn for many years was walking with his teacher along a hallway. When the master, in response to some item in the conversation, advised his for the umpteenth time, “Only don’t know,” something in the student snapped. Grabbing his teacher and shoving him up against the wall, the student shouted “If I hear you say that one more time I’m going to scream!” Seung Sahn looked at him and nodded. “Very good dharma demonstration!” he said.

I wonder how many great Zen teachers would react this calmly. That did make me think of this interview with Angie Boissevain at Sweeping Zen. In the course of the interview, she said:

Most of what I learned, I learned at Jikoji where, at the beginning, 60 disgruntled people were living on the land as an “anarchistic commune,” and declared that “only God owns the land.” Kobun invited them all to join us in the zendo. There were several tumultuous years when “saving all sentient beings” took on a very different meaning for us. It meant working with Vietnam vets and runaway kids and ex-cons. There was one crazed vet who’d been a helicopter gunner in ‘nam, who scared everybody. He was very tall, and very very angry. One day the work leader called Kobun out of the zendo during sesshin to tell him that Brett was stealing the engine from Jikoji’s truck in the parking lot. “I’ll take care of him,” said Kobun. “Oh, no! He’s dangerous!” “It’s ok,”Kobun said, “I have a knife,” and he opened his robe to show a big knife. Kobun walked up to the parking lot while everyone waited a long time on the zendo porch. Then he was back. “What happened?” “I gave him the knife and I told him he would have to kill me first in order to take the engine,” he said. “Then what?” “He took the knife, got in his car, and drove away.”

Seung Sahn has a story in the Compass of Zen about a Korean Zen master that ignores the Japanese soldiers during the Japanese invasion when they come to his temple to sack it. While the men are threatening him and attempting to intimidate him with words and actions, the Zen master is unperturbed and ignores them, which they find insulting, making them even angrier. As the soldiers become more and more agitated, their general is so impressed by the calm and still mind of the master in the face of this that he apologizes and withdraws his men from the temple, leaving the master unharmed and the temple unsacked. This level of stillness of mind and fearlessness in the face of actions by others is something that I truly admire. Correct situation, correct relationship, and correct function, indeed!