When Bankei was preaching at Ryumon temple, a Shinshu priest, who believed in salvation through the repetition of the name of the Buddha of Love, was jealous of his large audience and wanted to debate with him.
Bankei was in the midst of a talk when the priest appeared, but the fellow made such a disturbance that Bankei stopped his discourse and asked about the noise.
“The founder of our sect,” boasted the priest, “had such miraculous powers that he held a brush in his hand on one bank of the river, his attendant held up a paper on the other bank, and the teacher wrote the holy name of Amida through the air. Can you do such a wonderful thing?”
Bankei replied lightly: “Perhaps your fox can perform that trick, but that is not the manner of Zen. My miracle is that when I feel hungry I eat, and when I feel thirsty I drink.”
A Zen student came to Bankei and complained: “Master, I have an ungovernable temper. How can I cure it?”
“You have something very strange,” replied Bankei. “Let me see what you have.”
“Just now I cannot show it to you,” replied the other.
“When can you show it to me?” asked Bankei.
“It arises unexpectedly,” replied the student.
“Then,” concluded Bankei, “it must not be your own true nature. If it were, you could show it to me at any time. When you were born you did not have it, and your parents did not give it to you. Think that over.”
The cook monk Dairyo, at Bankei’s monastery, decided that he would take good care of his old teacher’s health and give him only fresh miso, a paste of soy beans mixed with wheat and yeast that often ferments. Bankei, noticing that he was being served better miso than his pupils, asked: “Who is the cook today?”
Dairyo was sent before him. Bankei learned that according to his age and position he should eat only fresh miso. So he said to the cook: “Then you think I shouldn’t eat at all.” With this he entered his room and locked the door.
Dairyo, sitting outside the door, asked his teacher’s pardon. Bankei would not answer. For seven days Dairyo sat outside and Bankei within.
Finally in desperation an adherent called loudly to Bankei: “You may be all right, old teacher, but this young disciple here has to eat. He cannot go without food forever!”
At that Bankei opened the door. He was smiling. He told Dairyo: “I insist on eating the same food as the least of my followers. When you become the teacher I do not want you to forget this.”
When Bankei held his seclusion-weeks of meditation, pupils from many parts of Japan came to attend. During one of these gatherings, a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to Bankei with the request that the culprit be expelled. Bankei ignored the case.
Later the pupil was caught in a similar act, and again Bankei disregarded the matter. This angered the other pupils, who drew up a petition asking for the dismissal of the thief, stating that otherwise, they would leave in a body.
When Bankei had read the petition he called everyone before him. “You are wise brothers,” he told them. “You know what is right and what is not right. You may go somewhere else to study if you wish, but this poor brother does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here even if all the rest of you leave.”
A torrent of tears cleansed the face of the brother who had stolen. All desire to steal had vanished.