‘Kanzan Egen, the founder of Myoshin-ji, was a disciple of Daito Kokushi. At the end of his formal training, Egen disappeared from his teacher’s monastery. Settling in a country village, he continued his training by assisting anyone who asked for help. No matter what he was asked to do, he agreed cheerfully. Eventually Daito Kokushi became ill, and his disciples traveled to Egen’s village to ask him to return to the monastery to take care of his teacher. The villagers were amazed to learn who Egen was and were chagrined that they had used him as a servant. If they had know who he was, they said, they could have had a teaching from him, and they asked him for a teaching before he left. He said that would be easy. He called to the old man and woman to whom he’d been closest, who had always taken care of him. They thought they were going to receive a great teaching and came right over. He sat them down, and then he banged their heads together. They started screeching in pain. He said, “You thought you were going to get some great teaching, bot to get hit on the head! But who taught you to feel pain? Who told you to exclaim like that? Nobody! That, coming from nowhere, with no expectation, no thought about how to do it – that is your true nature! When you felt pain, you exclaimed spontaneously, with no hesitation. You didn’t learn that from your parents or in books.”‘ (Not One Single Thing)
This was a new story on me. Perhaps it happened; it’s not like the old teachers needed an excuse to hit people in those days. We don’t get to do that so much any more, so how can we show people how to get out of their usual conceptual way of seeing things?