37. Publishing the Sutras

    Tetsu-Gen1, a devotee of Zen in Japan, decided to publish the Sutras which at that time were available only in Chinese. The books were to be printed with wood blocks in an edition of seven thousand copies, a tremendous undertaking.

    Tetsu-Gen began by travelling and collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give him a hundred ryo2, but most of the time he received only small coins. He thanked each donor with equal gratitude. After ten years Tetsu-Gen had enough money to begin his task.

    It happened that at that time the Uji3 river overflowed. Famine followed. Tetsu-Gen took the funds he had collected for the books and spent them to save others from starvation. Then he again began his work of collecting.

    Several years afterwards an epidemic spread over the country. Tetsu-Gen again gave away what he had collected, to help his people.

    For a third time he started his work, and after twenty years his wish was fulfilled. The printing blocks which produced the first edition of Sutras can be seen to-day in the Obaku4 monastery in Kyoto5.

    The Japanese tell their children that Tetsu-Gen made three sets of Sutras, and that the first two invisible sets surpass even the last.


1. Tetsu-Gen

2. Ryo

3. Uji 

4. Obaku 

5. Kyoto