The First Principle
When one goes to Obaku temple in Kyoto he sees carved over the gate the words “The First Principle”. The letters are unusually large, and those who appreciate calligraphy always admire them as being a mastepiece. They were drawn by Kosen two hundred years ago.
When the master drew them he did so on paper, from which the work men made the large carving in wood. As Kosen sketched the letters a bold pupil was with him who had made several gallons of ink for the calligraphy and who never failed to criticise his master’s work.
“That is not good,” he told Kosen after his first effort.
“How is this one?”
“Poor. Worse than before,” pronounced the pupil.
Kosen patiently wrote one sheet after another until eighty-four First Principles had accumulated, still without the approval of the pupil.
Then when the young man stepped outside for a few moments, Kosen thought: “Now this is my chance to escape his keen eye,” and he wrote hurriedly, with a mind free from distraction: “The First Principle.”
“A masterpiece,” pronounced the pupil.