Case #29 from Master Dogen's Shinji Shobogenzo Book One
One day Master Zengen went with his teacher Master Dogo to visit a house where someone had recently died to express their condolences. When they were alone, Master Zengen patted the coffin and said to Master Dogo, “Is he alive or dead?”
Master Dogo said, “I will not say alive or dead.”
Master Zengen said, “Why won’t you say?”
Master Dogo said, “I will never say. I will never say.”
On the way back to the temple, Master Zengen said, “Master! Please give me your answer now! If you won’t I’ll hit you!”
Master Dogo said, “You can hit me if you want. I will not say.”
Master Zengen hit his teacher several times with his fist, but Master Dogo still refused to answer.
On returning to the temple, Master Dogo said, “I think it would be better for you to leave this temple. But if the Head Monk hears you are leaving it will cause trouble.”
After Master Dogo died, Master Zengen went to the temple of Master Sekiso. He told Master Sekiso about the incident and asked him for his teaching.
Master Sekiso said, “I will not say alive or dead.”
Master Zengen said, “Why won’t you say.”
Master Sekiso said, “I will never say. I will never say.”
On hearing these words, Master Zengen finally understood.