A student of the sutras once visited Guizong Zhichang while he was working the soil in the garden with a hoe. Just as the student drew near, he saw Guizong use the hoe to cut a snake in half, killing it in violation of the Buddhist precept not to take any form of life.
“I’d heard that Guizong was a crude and ill-mannered man, but I didn’t believe it until now,” the student remarked.
“Is it you or I who’s crude or refined?” Guizong asked.
“What do you mean by ‘crude’?” the student asked.
Guizong held the hoe upright.
“And in that case, what do you mean by ‘refined’?” the student asked.
Guizong made a motion as if cutting a snake in half.
“And yet,” the student said, “if you had allowed it, it would have gone away on its own.”
“If I’d allowed it to go away on its own, how would you have seen me chop the snake in two?”
[Guizong Zhichang – Zen Masters of China: 143-44]