Long ago, there was a monk in Meditation Master Hōgen’s monastic community named Gensoku. He was a subordinate under the Temple’s administrative director.
Master Hōgen asked him how long have you been here.
Gensoku replied, “Why, I’ve been in the community for three
years now.”
The Master asked, “As you are still a junior monk, why have
you never asked me about the Buddha Dharma?”
Gensoku replied, “I will not lie to Your Reverence. Previously, when I was
with Meditation Master Seihō, I fully reached the place of joyful ease in the
Buddha Dharma.”
The Master said, “And what was said that gained you entry to
that place?”
Gensoku said, “I once asked Seihō what the True Self of a
novice is”, and Seihō replied, “The children of fire are fire.”
Hōgen responded, “Nicely put by Seihō. But I’m afraid you may not have understood it. Were the Buddha Dharma like that, it is unlikely that It would have continued on, being transmitted down to the present day.”
Gensoku was so distressed at this that he left the monastery.
While on the road, he thought to himself, “In this country the Master
is known as a fine and learned monastic teacher and as a great
spiritual leader and guide for five hundred monks. Since he has chided
me for having gone wrong, he must undoubtedly have a point.” So, he
returned to Master Hogen, respectfully bowed in apology, and said,
“What is the True Self of a novice?”
The Master replied, “The children of fire are fire.”
Upon hearing these words, Gensoku awoke fully to the
Buddha Dharma.
Eihei Dogen The Shobogennzo
I should like to add a caution to this wonderful story:
If you think Master Hogen finally revealed the truth to novice Gensoku you have been misled and fallen for Hogen’s treachery. If “the children of fire are fire” were the truth of the way, what a shallow path it would be! The Dharma would have died out a long time ago.
The truth is the children of fire are fire.
Now how do you see this?