The Five-Minute Buddhist Books

Recommended Host

Koan: Mokusen’s Hand

Mokusen’s Hand

Mokusen Hiki was living in a temple in the province of Tamba. One of his adherents complained of the stinginess of his wife.

Mokusen visited the adherent’s wife and showed her his clenched fist before her face.

“What do you mean by that?” asked the surprised woman.

“Suppose my fist were always like that. What would you call it?” he asked.

“Deformed,” replied the woman.

Then he opened his hand flat in her face and asked: “Suppose it were always like that. What then?”

“Another kind of deformity,” said the wife.

“If you understand that much,” finished Mokusen, “you are a good wife.” Then he left.

After his visit, this wife helped her husband to distribute as well as to save.

1 comment to Koan: Mokusen’s Hand

  • Jon

    The Koan represents the middle way–the closed fist being stingy and the open fist being too open to craving. Somewhere between the open and closed fist the woman recognizes the middle way between saving and distribution. I am reminded of the dragon sitting on the pot of gold and the alcoholic buying the entire bar another round of beer.