In 1883, years after Zen Master Kyong Ho had left, a thirteen-year-old boy was studying sutras at Dong Hak Sa. On graduation day, the sutra teacher gave a speech and then turned to Zen Master Kyong Ho, who was visiting: “Please speak, Master, everyone would like to hear your words of wisdom.”
Kyong Ho was quite a sight. By that time he was always unshaven and wore robes that were tattered and worn. Although he at first refused, after being asked again and then a third time, he consented to speak. Having completed his talk, the Master walked straight out the door, leaving the audience astonished, but the thirteen-year-old boy sutra student ran after him, and called out, “Please take me with you; I wish to become your student!”
Kyong Ho shouted at him to go away, but the boy would not, so he asked, “If I take you with me. what will you do?”
“I will learn. You will teach me.”
“But you are only a child. How can you understand?”
”People are young and old, but in truth, is there youth or old age?”
Kyong Ho said: ”You are a very bad boy. You have killed and eaten even the Buddha. Come along.”
Years later Kyong Ho gave that boy Dharma Transmission and he became Zen Master Man Gong.
When the Japanese occupied Korea in 1910, they viewed the Korean Buddhist sangha as a potential source of resistance. The colonial government tried to destroy the cohesion of the ancient Korean monastic community by forcing monks and nuns to adopt Japanese forms, including renouncing celibacy and eating meat and drinking alcohol. Under the Japanese, only married monks were to be permitted to serve as temple abbots.
One senior monk refused the Japanese demand: Zen Master Man Gong of Su Dok Sa temple. His prestige and reputation were such that he was essentially untouchable.
The Japanese authorities called together the leading 25 abbots and demanded that they convert to Japanese forms. After the Japanese governor-general had finished speaking, Man Gong Sunim stood up and said:,”Do you know where the mountains, rivers, and the great earth come from?”
The governor-general could have executed Man Gong Sunim on the spot, but he could not answer this challenge.
So Man Gong Sunim shouted, “KATZ!”, pointed to the governor general’s mouth, and said: “Then your mouth is the gate to hell.” Then he went back to Dok Seung mountain.
There are many more famous stories about Zen Master Man Gong and his exchanges with monks, students, and other Zen Masters. Many of these have become kong-ans, unique to the Korean tradition, and you will encounter these if you practice with the Kwan Um School.