Gutei’s Finger

One of my favorite Teishos to give is on Case Three of the Mumonkan “Gutei’s Finger”. Depending on our karma, every koan will strike us in a different way. Some koans we are content to hear the words “next” while others we could fall into for a lifetime, for me this is Gutei’s finger. By nature this koan demands no less and is truly “inexhaustible”. For me this “inexhaustibility” is that of love, Tenryu’s love, Gutei’s Love and the love of that one finger . Love to me IS the rabbit hole from which I tumble down investigating this “One finger Zen”. Down and down I go, righting momentarily to only start tumbling again. You may perceive the periods of “righting” are the periods of radiance, they are not, it is the tumbling. The “righting” is the grasping at roots on the way down, desperately trying to hold on to control. For new students they think me odd when I get choked up offering this koan. They think “My god, this Gutei is vicious and Joriki seems to be of the same feather”! I assure you the cut was extraordinarily deep but, the finger, in a relative sense, still remained on the attendant. I hope on my death bed too I will still be tumbling, mumbling my last words of the endless beauty of this one finger.

Mumonkan Case 3: Gutei’s Finger
Gutei raised his finger whenever he was asked a question about Zen. A boy attendant began to imitate him in this way. When a visitor asked the boy what his master had preached about, the boy raised his finger.
Gutei heard about the boy’s mischief, seized him and cut off his finger with a knife. As the boy screamed and ran out of the room, Gutei called to him. When the boy turned his head to Gutei, Gutei raised up his own finger. In that instant the boy was enlightened.
When Gutei was about to die, he said to the assembled monks,”I received this one-finger Zen from Tenryu. I used it all my life and yet could not exhaust it” and then he passed away.