Zen Story: The Limits Of Language

Once when Zen master Bankei was about to leave a temple in the capital where he taught from time to time, a certain gentleman came requesting that the master postpone his departure. A certain baron had a question and wanted to see the Zen master in person on the morrow to resolve it. Bankei assented and put off leaving. The next day, however, the gentleman came again, this time with a message that the baron has some urget business to take care of and could not come and see the master. The baron had asked the gentleman to relay his question to Bankei, then report the Zen master’s answer back to him. When he heard the gentleman out, Bankei said, “This matter of Zen is difficult to convey even by direct question and direct answer; it is all the more difficult to convey by messenger.” The Zen master said nothing more. Speechless, the gentleman withdrew and departed.

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