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Wood netsuke. A fox dressed like a zen monk.

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Netsuke and Related: Pre 1900: item # 447295

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Wood netsuke. A fox dressed like a zen monk.
Height 3,4 cm. Signature: Masakazu. "Fox zen " means "phoney teacher": It became apparent from the beginnings of the Buddhist tradition that there always were people who would try to fake their wisdom, hiding behind unclear teaching, so typical also of the real zen. In China, such fakers were derided as fox Zen ractitioners. This expression ('fox Zen') originated from the famous "Hyakujo's Fox" koan, in which a master had been punished for his bad teaching and was reborn as a fox: Whenever Hyakujo delivered a lecture an old man was always there with the monks listening to it; one day Hyakujo asked him: "Who are you?" The old man replied: "I am not a human being, but I was a human being when the Kashyapa Buddha preached in this world. I was a Zen master and lived on this mountain. At that time one of my students asked me whether the enlightened man is subject to the law of causation. I answered him: "The nlightened man is not subject to the law of causation." For this answer evidencing a clinging to absoluteness I became a fox for five hundred rebirths, and I am still a fox. Will you save me from this condition with your Zen words and let me get out of a ox's body? Now may I ask you: Is the lightened man subject to the law of causation?" Hyakujo said: "The nlightened man does not ignore the law of causation as he is one with the law of causation." At the words of Hyakujo the old man was enlightened. "I am emancipated," he said, paying homage with a deep bow. "I am no more a fox, but I have to leave my body in my dwelling place behind this mountain. Please perform my funeral as a monk." The next day Hyakujo found the corpse of an old fox and then performed the ceremony of cremation. There are other stories about this animal. One tells of one that changed in a priest and lived at Kenchoji temple untill a dog discerned his true form and killed him in a fight. Another story tells of the daimyo Saito Sukeyasu, who was caught in a snowstorm in the mountains and found refuge in a temple filled with demons; here he fought with with a priest who metamorphosed into a fox while dying.


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