The Last Poem of Hoshin
The Zen master Hoshin lived in China many years. Then he returned to the northeastern part of Japanwhere he taught his disciples. When he was getting very oldhe told them a story he had heard in China. This is the story:
One year on the twenty-fifth of DecemberTokufuwho was very oldsaid to his disciples: "I am not going to be alive next year so you fellows should treat me well this year."
The pupils thought he was jokingbut since he was a great-hearted teacher each of them in turn treated him to a feast on succeeding days of the departing year.
On the eve of the new yearTokufu concluded: "You have been good to me. I shall leave you tomorrow afternoon when the snow has stopped."
The disciples laughedthinking he was aging and talking nonsense since the night was clear and without snow. But at midnight snow began to falland the next day they did not find their teacher about. They went to the meditation hall. There he had passed on.
Hoshinwho related this storytold his disciples: "It is not necessary for a Zen master to predict his passingbut if he really wishes to do sohe can."
Can you?someone asked.
Yes,answered Hoshin. "I will show you what I can do seven days from now."
None of the disciples believed himand most of them had even forgotten the conversation when Hoshin next called them together.
Seven days ago,he remarkedI said I was going to leave you. It is customary to write a farewell poem, but I am neither poet nor calligrapher. Let one of you inscribe my last words.
His followers thought he was jokingbut one of them started to write.
Are you ready?Hoshin asked.
Yes, sir,replied the writer.
Then Hoshin dictated:
I came from brilliancy.
And return to brilliancy.
What is this?
The poem was one line short of the customary fourso the disciple said: "Masterwe are one line short."
Hoshinwith the roar of a conquoring lionshouted "Kaa!" and was gone.