But the incompetent master would refuse to retreat again from his wrong position. This is a mortal disease…
Rinzai calls it a mortal disease; every mortal is prone to it: the ego.
The ego does not cherish the idea of revealing the truth, because revealing the truth is the death of the ego. It goes on saying that which is untrue, but it cannot hide from authentic seeking eyes. They will uncover that the master is just a parrot – he repeats correctly but he knows nothing.
This is a mortal disease, which is incurable and is called “a guest looking at his host.”
The master himself is a guest but pretending to be a host.
It might happen that a competent master would not use any object, but would merely follow the disciple’s question, to strip him of his graspings, which the latter would refuse with all his strength. This is “a host looking at his guest.”
If you are facing and encountering an authentic master he will start destroying your personality immediately. And if you are a true disciple, you will stand naked, not hiding anything. This he calls “a host looking at his guest.” To somebody who needs protection, shelter, guidance, the true master becomes everything: a guide, a friend, a shelter, a way, a companion unto the ultimate.
It might happen that a disciple just coming out of a still state of meditation would present himself to a master, who knows that such a state is merely the object, and snatches it away from the former, throwing it into an abyss. The disciple would praise the enlightened master, who would reply, “You do not know what is good and what is bad.” Thereupon, the disciple would bow his thanks. This is “a host looking at a host.”
Both understand the meaning. The shout has joined them both. The disciple is coming out of the meditation. He knows the path where he is coming from, and he knows that the same is the path of the shout. He has no fear. If the master takes away anything that is a hindrance, he will not cling to it. On the contrary, he will relinquish it with joy and thank the master, bow down before him.
This is called a host looking at a host. Both have arrived; one is a senior host, the other is a junior host. One has just arrived, but both have arrived.