Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bogus Hakuin Quote on Life and Death: "Yes, but not a dead one."

The following bogus story can be found at that inexhaustible font of bogosity, wikiquotes:
A samurai once asked Zen Master Hakuin where he would go after he died.
Hakuin answered 'How am I supposed to know?'
'How do you not know? You're a Zen master!' exclaimed the samurai.
'Yes, but not a dead one,' Hakuin answered.

Anyone with the slightest understanding of Zen can see immediately that this attributes to the great Hakuin things that no Zen Master would ever say. Sadly, this totally bogus story appears to be the handiwork of someone who passes himself off as a Zen Master, Albert Low: Teisho by Albert Low: Case number 55 of the Hekiganroku: Alive or dead?

Here is the genuine story as related by Nyogen Senzaki in "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones" (link):

57. The Gates of Paradise
A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin, and asked: "Is there really a paradise and a hell?"

"Who are you?" inquired Hakuin.

"I am a samurai," the warrior replied.

"You, a soldier!" exclaimed Hakuin. "What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face looks like that of a beggar."

Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued: "So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head."

As Nobushige drew his sword Hakuin remarked: "Here open the gates of hell!"

At these words the samurai, perceiving the master's discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed.

"Here open the gates of paradise," said Hakuin.