One day Tokusan went down toward the dining room, holding his bowls. Seppõ met him and asked, “Where are you off to with your bowls? The bell has not rung, and the drum has not sounded.” Tokusan turned and went back to his room. Seppõ mentioned this to Gantõ, who remarked, “Tokusan is renowned, but he does not know the last word (the ultimate truth).” Tokusan heard about this remark and sent his attendant to fetch Gantõ. “You do not approve of me (my Zen)?” he asked. Gantõ whispered his meaning (admitted this indirectly). Tokusan said nothing at the time, but the next day he ascended the rostrum, and behold! he was very different from usual (delivered an entirely different kind of lecture to the monks)! Gantõ, going toward the front of the hall, clapped his hands and laughed loudly, saying, “Congratulations! Our old man has got hold of the last word (understands the ultimate truth indeed)! From now on, nobody in this whole country (China) can outdo him!”
As for the last word, neither Gantõ nor Tokusan has ever dreamed of it!
When you look into the matter, you find they are like puppets on the shelf!
If you realize the first (truth),
You master the last (ultimate truth).
The first and the last
Are not one word (Are they not the same)?
This koan is considered to be a Kojo koan. The Kojo koans – known also as ”crowning koans” – are used to cultivate imperturbability, the mind which remains unshakeable in the midst of everyday turmoil. Deeply developed Zen practitioners are not aroused to anger no matter what the source of irritation or provocation. Although masters may scold their students (often with considerable ferocity), such actions originate from compassion, not from anger.
Tokusan (780-865) was two years younger than Joshu and he was the abbot of the monastery. He studied the Diamond Sutra and he wrote a commentary on it. Later he went to study under Ryutan. He was famous for using his stick, saying: „Thirty blows if you speak, thirty blows if you don’t.” In his later years he displayed a mellow maturity, as shown in the present case. Seppo Gison and Ganto Zenkatsu, who appear in this case, are both disciples of Tokusan. At the time of this story he was eighty years old, Seppo forty one and Ganto thirty five. They both became Dharma successors to Tokusan and became excellent Zen masters.
Seppo (822-908) was a persistent and painstaking man who spared no effort in his study of Zen. At the time of the koan, he was a young monk whose duty was to cook for the master and other monks. His practice was not very deep and once in a while, he had to fret and get excited. At that time he didn’t realize the truth that Zen practice is not about wrong or right, but to attain the true nature, the Buddha mind. Ganto was his brother monk, who was trying to help him attain Zen. Although he was six years older than Ganto, the enlightenment came to him later than to Ganto. He was a great talent but slow to mature. In his later years, he taught his own students with great consciousness, and it is said to have had over fifteen hundreds monks in his assembly. He appears in five cases in Hekiganroku.
Ganto (828-887) was known for his sharpness and sagacity. When Tokusan died, Ganto was thirty-seven years old. A few years later, he became the abbot of a large temple. He ended up killed by looters who came to plunder his temple. As he was killed he gave a great shout, which is said to have resounded for ten Chinese leagues.
The last word has to do with the Four Wisdoms: Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom, Universal Nature Wisdom, Marvelous Observing Wisdom and Perfecting of Action Wisdom. It is said that when we first attain realization, we attain the Great Perfect Mirror Wisdom, meaning the fundamental wisdom. Usually, this wisdom is still dim. As we make progress, polishing the other three wisdoms, the first wisdom becomes more and more brilliant. The final state of great brilliance is the ultimate fulfillment of subtle enlightenment. These wisdoms are simply names for aspects of actual experience. There are gradations in the development of these wisdoms, from which comes the idea of first and last.
The last word is not known what it is, for is beyond perception. The last word ist that which is spoken without using lips and tongue. It has no meaning since is has nothing to do with the intellect. The last word is the final one before the Great Enlightenment, before the complete silence. Before Ku.
Photo credit: aquastelle-belgique
Text source: sacred-texts