A seven-year-old boy often went to see Ch'an MasterWu-te. Since the boy was very loquacious, the Master gradually discovered that he was quick-witted and had potential for Ch'an. One day, Wu-te said to him. "I'm very busy. I don't have time to argue and talk nonsense with you. I'll give you one more chance to debate with me. If you lose, you'll have to treat me to some cake. If I lose, I'll buy some cake for you."

Upon hearing this, the boy required, "Please take out your money, Master!"

"But the loser will take out his money. Now, let's begin. I'll pretend to be a rooster."

"I'll pretend to be a bug," said the boy.

Wu-te seized this opportunity and said immediately, "A little bug! Well, you should buy cakes for this big rooster."

But the boy would not give up so easily. He argued, "No, Master! You'll have to buy them for me because I'll fly away whenever I see you. This is proper because a master and a disciple aren't supposed to debate with each other. In that sense, haven't you lost?"

Holding the lad's hand, Wu-te went around and gathered together many villagers, saying, "As with questions of war or peace that government officials cannot decide, we'll have to leave it up to the villagers. Our present situation is similar to that. Since there are three hundred of you here, please judge for us who is right." He then repeated the debate, but the villagers could not decide. Having seen this, Master Wu-te said seriously and solemnly, "Only Ch'an masters who have their eyes wide open can decide."

Three days later, people in the monastery noticed that Wu-te quietly bought some cake for the boy.

What a rooster and what a bug! Many humorous episodes must have taken place between these two Ch'an practitioners, despite the great diffrence in their ages.


In Ch'an, large or small, long or short, right or wrong, and good or bad do not exist, nor are there winners or losers. Initially, Master Wu-te wanted to win, so he pretended to be a big, strongrooster. The seven-year-old boy was willing to be a small, weak insect that could be easily pecked at by the rooster. Yet, the insect could fly away, implying that a master and a disciple should not argue with each other. This illustrates that Ch'an eschews debates, although it does have its own standards of etiquette.


(Source: Hsing Yun's Ch'an Talk, Book 3)

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