Case 52: Ôbaku instructed the assembly and said, “You are all drinkers of lees [dregs]. If you continue to go on your Way like this, when will you have your ‘today’? Do you know that in this great empire of Tang there is no Zen master?” Now a monk came forward and said, “What would you say to the fact that in various places there are people who accept students and direct their assemblies?” Ôbaku said, “I don’t say that there is no Zen; I only say that there is no master.”
“Don’t you realize that Obaku was exhausting himself on your behalf as kindly as an old grandmother.” – Daigu
“Every day is a good day.” – Unmon
Description: Henry begins this teisho with a little show and tell. A teacher of his had recently given him a cloth meant for wrapping books and materials that a roshi would use for a teisho. This cloth has on it calligraphy of the character “shin”, which is often inadequately translated as “heart or “mind” but its meaning encompasses both. He then recounts a story of Obaku and his student, the famous Rinzai. Rinzai would not go to dokusan with Obaku due to Obaku’s towering and severe demeanor. Eventually, after being convinced to see Obaku, asking about the Buddha dharma, being struck mercilessly three times and coming to an impasse, Obaku sends Rinzai to the hermit Daigu, who is able to bring Rinzai to great awakening. This helps frame the continued discussion on Obaku’s dregs-drinkers. Another way of translating “you are all drinkers of lees” is to say, “you are all living on a diet of concepts! You are gorging yourself on thoughts!” What, then, is the sweet pure wine, the non-dregs? What is it that allows Unmon to say ”every day is a good day”? What is it that that allows Daigu to say that a savage strike from Obaku’s staff is the kindness of an old grandmother? What is it?