Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Soen Nakagawa

                Before he began his own Zen training, Philip Kapleau and a friend paid a visit to Soen Nakagawa at Ryutakuji in Japan. The friend was a professor of history then working in Japan who had read about the koan Mu. He wanted Nakagawa’s advice about the best way to approach the koan. “How can I expedite my understanding of Mu?” he asked.
                Nakagawa was engaged in preparing tea for his visitors and, without looking up from what he was doing, he asked, “What was it that Jesus said on the cross?”
                “Jesus? I’m not sure what you mean.”
                “What did he say to God?”
                “Do you mean, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” Kapleau suggested.
                Nakagawa served the tea and said no more. Kapleau’s friend became irritated and remarked, “We have made considerable effort to come here to see you because we are very serious about learning something about Zen and had hoped that you could give us some direction.”
                “What was it that Jesus said on the cross?” Nakagawa asked again.
                “‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” the friend repeated impatiently.
                “No,” Nakagawa said. “That was not it.”
                “Well, then, what do you think he said?”
                Nakagawa stretched his arms wide and screamed as if in agony, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me!

[Soen NakagawaThe Third Step East: 145-163; 51, 55, 56, 114, 115-16, 117, 118, 119, 181, 204-05, 207]

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