Kitano Gempo, abbot of Eihei temple, was ninety-two years old when he
passed away in the year 1933. He endeavored his whole like not to be
attached to anything. 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
"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.