As Tokusan was working in the garden one day, he saw a monk coming up the road. Tokusan closed the gate. The monk knocked on the gate, and Tokusan asked, “Who is it?”
The monk answered, “A lion cub.” Tokusan opened the gate. The monk made a bow, and Tokusan jumped on his back as one would jump upon an animal, pinned him down, and said, “You devil! Where have you been?”
Different students have different capacities
The greatness of a Zen Master is determined by his ability to teach according to the capacity of each student. Each student is different, so the teacher prepares to meet each individually. Tokusan was known as a rough teacher, and this brash young monk knowingly came to challenge him.
His answer to Tokusan’s inquiry (“a lion cub”) certainly is straight-forward. It is quite dangerous to let in a lion cub, but Tokusan opened the gate anyway. The monk bowed in token of respect, and at that instant Tokusan jumped on his back.
The beauty of the Zen teaching is always different and spontaneous, according to the situation,
time, place, and person. This is the beauty of enlightenment that is taught in light of the mundane. The Gurus who teach this great phenomenon as if in a classroom situation fail miserably. But the perfect Master understands that expedient and skillful means have to be utilized in all instances in order to break the though-cycles of the student. True enlightenment is down-to-earth and knows how to use baseness in order to cultivate the spiritual essence of other beings.