Joshu Examines a Monk in Meditation
Joshu went to a place where a monk had retired to meditate and asked
him: `What is, is what?'
The monk raised his fist.
Joshu replied: `Ships cannot remain where the water is too shallow.'
And he left.
A few days later Joshu went again to visit the monk and asked the same
The monk answered the same way.
Joshu said: `Well given, well taken, well killed, well save.' And he
bowed to the monk.
Mumon's Comment: The raised fist was the same both times. Why
is it Joshu did not admit the first and approved the second one?
Where is the fault?
Whoever answers this knows that Joshu's tongue has no bone so he can
use it freely. Yet perhaps Joshu is wrong. Or, through that monk, he
may have discovered his mistake.
If anyone thinks that the one's insight exceeds the other's, he has no
The light of the eyes is as a comet,
And Zen's activity is as lightning.
The sword that kills the man
Is the sword that saves the man.
A Zen koan from the classic collection The Gateless Gate.
Original transcription by Ben Walter and Adam Fuller of iBiblio.