Hekiganroku, Case 51: Seppô’s “What Is This?”

Teisho presented by Arno Hess on 19/11/2023 at the Pathway Zen Zenkai at Spring Hill, QLD, Australia.


If there is even a bit of right and wrong, the mind is lost in confusion.
If you do not descend to gradations, there will be no searching.
Just say, is “letting go” right or is “holding fast” right?
If there is even an infinitesimally narrow road of understanding here,
One is still stuck in words.
Moreover, if you are caught up in hidden and apparent actions,
Each of them is hanging onto grasses and clinging to trees.
Even if you have reached the point of solitary liberation,
You will not escape longing for the far-away gates of home.
Have you grasped it yet?
If not, just understand this totally revealed public case.
To test, I bring this up, look!


When Seppô was living in a hermitage, two monks came to pay their respects. When he saw
them coming, Seppô thrust open the gate of his hermitage with his hands, jumped out, and said, “What
is this?” (One of) the monks also said, “What is this?” Seppô hung his head and retired into his
Later, the monk came to Gantô. Gantô asked him, “Where have you come from?” The monk said,
“From Reinan. “Gantô said, “Did you ever visit Seppô?” The monk said, “Yes, we visited him.” Gantô
said, “What did he say?” The monk related what had happened. Gantô said, “What else did he say?” The
monk said, “Not a word; he hung his head and retired into his hermitage.” Gantô said, “Ah, how I regret
now that in those days I did not tell him the last phrase! If I had told it to him, no one under heaven
could do anything against him.”
At the end of the summer practice period the monk came back to this conversation and asked
him about its meaning. Gantô said, “Why didn’t you ask me about it sooner?” The monk said, “I could
not dare to ask you about it.” Gantô said, “Seppô was born on the same stem as I, but he will not die
on the same stem. If you want to know the last phrase, it is just this.”


The last phrase, I will it tell it for you.
The season when both bright and dark are of a pair.
Born of the same branch, they mutually know each other.
Not dying on the same branch, they are completely separate from each other.
Completely separate.
Yellow Head and Blue Eyes must also distinguish clearly.
South, North, East, West – let us return.
The night grows late and we both see the snow of a thousand crags.

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