The Three Calls of the Emperor's Teacher

Chu, called Kokushi, the teacher of the emperor, called to his attendant: `Oshin.'

Oshin answered: `Yes.'

Chu repeated, to test his pupil: `Oshin.'

Oshin repeated: `Yes.'

Chu called: `Oshin.'

Oshin answered: `Yes.'

Chu said `I ought to apologize for you for all this calling, but really you ought to apologize to me.'

Mumon's Comment: When Old Chu called Oshin three tiems his tongue was rotting, but when Oshin answered three tiems his words were brilliant. Chu was getting decrepit and lonesome, and his method of teaching was like holding a cow's head to feed it clover.

Oshin did not trouble to show his Zen either. His satisfied stomach had no desire to feast. When the country is prosperous everyone is indolent; when the home is wealthy the children are spoilt.

Now I want to ask you: Which one should apologize?

When prison stocks are iron and have no place for the head, the prisoner is doubly in trouble.
When there is no place for Zen in the head of our generation, it is in grievous trouble.
If you try to hold up the gate and door of a falling house,
You also will be in trouble.

A Zen koan from the classic collection The Gateless Gate. Original transcription by Ben Walter and Adam Fuller of iBiblio.