August 13, 2011

Tozan's three pounds

A monk asked Tozan when he was weighing some flax, "What is Buddha"?

Tozan said, "This flax weighs three pounds."


nikita said...

can you elaborate more on it?

U No Hoo said...

@Nikita: What did you interpret out of it? I will post my thoughts later! :) Want to see some possible reactions and interpretations.

someone u no ;) said...

Even I was about to ask the elaboration but then thought so, that may be you want to test the thoughts! :)
I would like to try then...
What I interpreted is that, the Tozan was weighing the flax & was concentrating on the weight & so maybe when the Monk asked him about Buddha he said what the weight was!
...well, like wise I think there may be some deep meaning to it, but then sometimes in finding deep hidden meaning in something we miss out something which is common. So I think this could be the interpretation. Rest I don't know this story nor the characters. Just wanted to try.

Anonymous said...

Literally scoured the net over this post Sir and did find (some) legible text written about it albeit unworthy of mention.
My interpretation of the words would be that:
1.There is no straight answer to the question "What is Buddha?", &
2. The reply is akin to someone blurting out "The earth is round" upon being asked 'What' or 'Why' in context of phenomena that have no direct explanations.
(The assumption here being that Tozan is a knowledgeable person, which stands testified as a monk is asking him such a spiritually relevant question.

If not, then I'd say that Tozan's answer to the monk obliquely reads out as- "Bugger off! I'm busy now!", although in a much more refined and civilized manner :) )

Trishala said...

When I read this post the first time,on first thoughts I was like whats this now? Obviously I did not/have not understood what it means! Then I read it two-three times and I was like the ans. does not pertain to the question or maybe it does but I cannot understand it. The question I had in mind was- did Tozan not carefully listen to what he was being asked or was he too focused on his task of weighing flax that he did not pay heed to the monk's question. Then I felt I'm thinking too much abt this and complicating it.I read it once more and then I felt, a question was asked and an ans. was given. That's it.Full stop!Whatever is,is.I'm nobody to draw a conclusion or I'd rather say judge whether what was answered was right or wrong!

U No Hoo said...

@Someone: The extract is not a part of a story. It is just that bit.

@Anon: What were the search results!

@Trishala: There is no right or a wrong answer as such, I felt.

Anonymous said...

Well, for a start I found a site giving chapters from 'The Gateless Gate, by Ekai' but I didn't look at it in detail as the story was quoted verbatim as the 18th chapter and there was no discussion given apart from this-

Mumon's Comment:
Tozan’s Zen is like a clam. When the two halves of the shell open, you can see the whole inside. However, now tell me, “What is Tozan’s real insides?”

Just “Three pounds of flax!” pops up,
His words are close, and yet his heart is closer.
Anyone who explains this or that, yes and no,
Is himself the man of yes and no.

Next, I ended up in another blog which stated that the text was part of Zen literature and then went on to explain that the most relevant point of the dialogue is the sheer randomness of the reply, the rest of the explanation being quite unclear as to what exactly the blogger intended to elucidate.

The next few search results only repeated Mumon’s Comment, until I finally came across one, which matched my own opinion. “We sleep a thousand nights”, it said, although not in the exact same wordage, “and we arise on a thousand days, yet when someone asks us what sleep is, we fall short of words to give a befitting specific reply. It is in the same way that the question ‘What is Buddha?’ cannot have a clear-cut reply, that is, atleast in our Logical way of communication. However the language of Zen is irrational and un-intelligent to logical thinkers and hence, the best means of answering such an inquiry.”

Frankly speaking, reading the post made me feel like I was watching the movie ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ again. Not that the two are even remotely related. Its just that the film is a highly acclaimed one, a critics’ pet, yet my mind drew a complete blank as the end credits rolled and it was not until I read four different explanatory critiques on the movie that I actually understood what it meant. (Definitely not a recommendation Sir, unless you want to waste two hours watching it and then another twenty, scratching your head and yawning.)

someone u no ;) said...

@ U No Hoo: Okay! :)
...well my google search engine took me to the following links:

1st was all timepass discussion, the 2nd had something related, 3rd on was all full of such stories (more interesting was the link, it include words "ca/courses" just noticed :D)

Nitin said...

Might be Tozan wants to opine that Work is Workship i.e Buddha is my work. Buddha is everything is I Do.

nikita said...

@U No Hoo: at the first instance I felt that Tozan is quite disciplined sort off person that he does one thing and gives his wholesome to it!
that's why, though the opposite person was asking something, he got over his weigh thing done!
one other conclusion was, that Buddha cant be expressed in words...
I mean, you can't express God, coz he is an experience in itself....
one other relation to support my answer can be that you can't tell the weigh of flax unless you yourself do it, in the same way goes the experience to God!
the note is like a picture having far off placed dots...
we need to join them our way!

U No Hoo said...

I read this couple of sentences in a book I am reading currently. My interpretation was similar to Nitin's who mentioned that for Tozan, perhaps work is workship. I was struck by the simplicity of his response to a question that seemed so deep. For me, this small story is a parable that can be applied to many aspects of our lives.

Trishala said...

Sir,are these stories that you posting from Sunil Handa's book Stories from Here and There? Coz I had started reading that bk sometime back and it clicked me now that both the stories of Chanakya & Tozan were in the bk & both being here cannot be a mere co-incidence!

U No Hoo said...

@Trishala: Yes, indeed these are from the book. You will enjoy the book, am sure.

SRILAXMI said...


I just started reading ur blog, n am ending up commenting on every post...

regarding Tozan, i feel that he was concentrating on his work and expected no question other than what is the weight of the flax he is weighing.

Also, a wonderful discussion has been initiatated through your comments and enjoyed reading them as much as your posts!


vikram suryawanshi said...

You should only talk about that thing of which you have complete knowledge! This must be d message of d story!