When one go to Ơbaku temple in Kyoto he sees carved over the gate the words “The
First Principle”. The letters are unusually large, and those who appreciate
calligraphy always adorn them as being a masterpiece. They were drawn by Kosen
two hundred years ago.
When the master drew them he did so on paper, from which workmen made the larger
carving in wood. As Kosen sketched the letters a bold pupil was with him who had
made several gallons of ink for the calligraphy and who never failed to
criticize his master’s work: “That is not good,” he told Kosen after the first
effort. “How is that one?” “Poor. Worse than before,” pronounced the pupil.
Kosen patiently wrote one sheet after another until eighty-four First Principles
had accumulated, still without the approval of the pupil.
Then, when the young man stepped outside for a few moments, Kosen thought: “Now
is my chance to escape his keen eye,” and he wrote hurriedly, with a mind free
from distraction: “The First Principle.”
“A masterpiece,” pronounced the pupil.