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Nansen & Joshu Jushin (AD 778-897)
As told by David Scott

Joshu once asked master Nansen: 'What is the Way?'

Nansen answered: 'Ordinary mind is the way.'

'Then should we direct ourselves towards it or not? asked Joshu.

Nansen said: 'If you try to direct yourself toward it, you go away from it.

'Joshu then continued: 'If we do not try how can we know it is the way?'

Nansen replied: 'The way does not belong to knowing or not knowing. Knowing is delusion. Not knowing is blankness. If you really attain to the way of No Doubt it is like the great void, so vast and boundless. How can there be a right and wrong in the way?' At these words Joshu was enlightened.

Later, when Joshu was away, the monks of the eastern and western halls of Nansen's monastery began to quarrel. There was evidently some rivalry between them, and for the purposes of this story it had crystallized around a cat. Seeing the monks arguing over possession of a cat Nansen held it up and said to them:

If you can say a word of Zen you will save the cat. If not, I will cut it in two. No one could speak, and Nansen killed the cat. That evening when Joshu returned, Nansen told him what had happened. Joshu took off his sandal, placed it on his head, and walked out. 'If you had been there, you would of saved the cat, 'Nansen remarked.

Behind all the argument there is attachment to right and wrong, good and bad, mine and yours and so on. By his action Nansen was asking the monks how such disputes are to be settled.

Dogen Zenji spoke of this story: 'If I were Nansen I should say: " If you answer, I will kill it; if you don't answer, I will kill it." Zen teacher, Katsuki Sekida has said:'If I were the monks I should say, master knows how to cut it into two pieces, but he does not know how to cut it into one piece."

A monk once came to Joshu at breakfast time and said: 'I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.'
'Have you eaten your rice porridge yet?' asked Joshu.
'Yes, I have,'replied the monk.
Then you had better wash your bowl,'said Joshu.

According to tradition. Joshu continued to teach until his death at the age of 119. Nyogen senzaki said of him: 'His Zen was as ripe and mellow as old wine. . .He used neither the "big stick" nor the harsh voice of other masters, but the few words he spoke brimmed with Zen.

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