Whenever Hyakujo delivered a sermon, a certain old man was always there listening to it together with the monks; when they left the hall, he left also. One day,however he remained behind, and Hyakujo said to him, “Who may you be?” The old man replied, “Yes; I am not a human being. In the distant past, in the time of kasho Buddha, I was head monk here. On one occasion a certain monk asked me whether an enlightened man could fall again under the chain of cause and effect, and I answered that he could not. Thus I have been reborn a fox. I now beg you to release me from this rebirth by causing a change of mind through your words.” Then he asked Hyakujo, “Can an enlightened man fall again under the chain of cause and effect or not?” Hyakujo answered, “No one can set aside the law of cause and effect.” The old man immediately became enlightened, and making his bows, he said, “I am now released from rebirth as a fox and my body will be found on the other side of the mountain. I wish to make a request to you. Please bury me as a dead monk.” Hyakujo had the Karmadana, or deacon beat the clapper and informed the monks that after the midday meal there would be a funeral service for a dead monk. The monks thought this was odd, as all were in good health, nobody was in the hospital, and they wondered what the reason could be for this order. After they had eaten, Hyakujo led them to the foot of a rock on the farther side of the mountain, and with his staff poked the dead body of a fox and had it cremated.
In the evening Hyakujo ascended the rostrum in the hall and told the monks the whole story. Obaku thereupon asked the following question: “This old man made a mistake in his answer, and suffered reincarnation as a fox five hundred times, you say. But suppose every time he had answered he had not made a mistake what would of happened then?” Hyakujo replied, “Just come here to me, and I’ll tell you the answer!” Obaku then went up to Hyakujo–and boxed his ears. Hyakujo, clapping his hands and laughing, exclaimed, “I thought the barbarian had a red beard, but there is another one with a red beard!”
“Not falling into the law of cause and effect” –for what reason falling into a fox-life? “Not setting aside the law of cause and effect” –for what reason being released from a fox-life? If in regard to this you have the one (Buddha) eye, then you understand the former Hyakujo’s (=the old man’s) dramatic five hundred reincarnations that he received.
Not falling, not darkening; –two faces, but one die.
Not darkening, not falling, –wrong! All wrong!
As translated by R.H. Blyth