A Zen Story
November 27, 2021
The Obaku-San Temple in Kyoto, Japan, features a wooden carving right at the top of the entrance that reads, “The First Principle.”
This 200-year-old carving, a creation of Master Kosen, features large, unusually detailed letters that many consider a masterpiece in calligraphy.
There is an interesting zen story about this creation of Master Kosen.
Master Kosen had to first sketch the letters “The First Principle” on paper, and his workmen would then carve them into a large Wooden Log.
Now, Kosen had a rather outspoken student who was on hand to critically evaluate the letters that Master Kosen wrote on the paper.
“Not good enough!” the student said after seeing Kosen’s first attempt at sketching the words.
“How about this one?” Kosen asked after his second attempt at drawing the words.
“That’s even worse than the previous one!” exclaimed the difficult to please pupil.
As Master Kosen continued to write “The First Principle” repeatedly on fresh sheets of paper, the student kept rejecting them for not being good enough. The charade went on for eighty-four attempts until the young student decided to step out of the room for a few minutes.
“Ah, here’s my chance to escape his unrelenting gaze and work in peace,” Kosen thought to himself.
Free from the stress of being judged, Master Kosen hurriedly wrote “The First Principle” one more time, just as his student returned.
“Brilliant! What a masterpiece,” the student exclaimed, finally !!
Post Script- We can think of the student in this Zen story as a metaphor for our mind. A mind that constantly tells us that we are not good enough. The moment we free ourselves from the shackles of our own judging mind, we can operate to our highest potential.