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Dharma Talks : The Kwan Um School of Zen and Providence Zen Center

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The Cannon and the Shout  

Chin Ming-Hu was a powerful Chinese defense minister who lived toward the end of the Ming Dynasty. Although much of his life was devoted to military matters he also had a strong interest in Ch'an Buddhism. He would regularly invite Zen Master Hsin-Hueh Ta-Hsing to his place for dharma talks. One day when the Master was about to drink the usual cup of tea at the end of the talk there was suddenly a loud explosion. At the order of Chin a cannon had been fired at his signal to scare the Master. Many people were indeed frightened, but the Master continued to calmly drink his tea as if nothing had happened.

When he had finished his tea, the Master asked Chin, "That sounded like a cannon. Is there something wrong?" "I beg your pardon. I'm sure there is no problem." replied Chin evasively. "Cannon fire is such a routine occurrence in a military encampment that......."

After a while, a second round of tea was served. Just as Chin raised his cup to drink the Master gave a loud shout, creating quite a mess. Chin protested, "Master! Why did you do that?" Master Hsin-Hueh just laughed and said, "What's the matter? Don't you know that shouting is a routine occurrence in a Zen community?" Struck by the Master's calm and dignified manner, Chin offered his apology.


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