Gutei raised his finger whenever he was asked a question about Zen. A
boy attendant began to imitate him in this way. When anyone asked the
boy what his master had preached about, the boy would raise his
Gutei heard about the boy's mischief. He seized him and cut off his
finger. The boy cried and ran away. Gutei called and stopped him.
When the boy turned his head to Gutei, Gutei raised up his own finger.
In that instant the boy was enlightened.
When Gutei was about to pass from this world he gathered his monks
around him. `I attained my finger-Zen,' he said, `from my teacher
Tenryu, and in my whole life I could not exhaust it.' Then he passed
Mumon's comment: Enlightenment, which Gutei and the boy
attained, has nothing to do with a finger. If anyone clings to a
finger, Tenryu will be so disappointed that he will annihilate Gutei,
the boy and the clinger all together.
Gutei cheapens the teaching of Tenryu,
Emancipating the boy with a knife.
Compared to the Chinese god who pushed aside a mountain with one
Old Gutei is a poor imitator.
A Zen koan from the classic collection The Gateless Gate.
Original transcription by Ben Walter and Adam Fuller of iBiblio.