Kitano Gempo, abbot of Eihei temple, was ninety-two years old when he passed
away in the year 1933. He endeavored his whole life not to be attached to
As a wandering mendicant when he was twenty he happened to meet a
traveler who smoked tobacco. As they walked together down a mountain road, they
stopped under a tree to rest. The traveler offered Kitano a smoke, which he
accepted, as he was very hungry at the time.
“How pleasant this smoking is,” he commented. The other gave him an extra pipe
and tobacco and they parted.
Kitano felt: “Such pleasant things may disturb meditation. Before this goes too
far, I will stop now.” So he threw the smoking outfit away.
When he was twenty-three years old he studied I-King, the profoundest doctrine
of the universe. It was winter at the time and he needed some heavy clothes. He
wrote his teacher, who lived a hundred miles away, telling him of his need, and
gave the letter to a traveler to deliver. Almost the whole winter passed and
neither answer nor clothes arrived. So Kitano resorted to the prescience of
I-King, which also teaches the art of divination, to determine whether or not
his letter had miscarried. He found that this had been the case. A letter
afterwards from his teacher made no mention of clothes.
“If I perform such accurate determinative work with I-King, I may neglect my
meditation,” felt Kitano. So he gave up this marvelous teaching, and never
resorted to its powers again.
When he was twenty-eight he studied Chinese calligraphy and poetry. He grew so
skillful in these arts that his teacher praised him. Kitano mused: “If I don’t
stop now, I’ll be a poet, not a Zen teacher.” So he never wrote another poem.