So when Hyakujo asked, “With your mouth and lips closed, how would you say it?” Those who are not acquainted with the world of Zen, will be simply surprised, “What are you asking, what is it! In the first place you are asking an impossible thing: ‘With your mouth and lips closed,’ and in the second place you are asking, ‘How would you say it?’ – two mysteries in one question.”
Isan said, “I would ask you to say it.”
He challenged his masters: “It is impossible, but I will give you a chance. If I cannot say it, I want you to say it. With your lips closed, with your mouth shut, say it.”
Hyakujo said, “I could say it, but if I did so, I fear I should have no successors.”
What he is saying is, “If I have to say it, then you are not capable of being my successor. I can say it. Neither the lips are needed nor the mouth. Just a good hit and you will know it that I have said it.” Ordinarily Hyakujo was not very much into hitting people. Perhaps this was the first time he had gone so far: “My hit is going to be so great that perhaps you will fall dead. I won’t have any successors. And even if you survive my hit, you would have disqualified yourself. You have not answered. Rather than answering my question, you have questioned me – and this is a test to choose a successor.”
Hyakujo turned to Goho. “With your mouth and lips closed, how would you say it?” he asked his second disciple.
Goho said, “Osho! You should shut up!”
It is a little better than the first answer from Isan: “I would ask you to say it.” He is simply accepting his defeat, but hiding it in a circular way rather than saying, “I cannot say it.” Even if he had remained silent without saying it, that would have been far better. But very stupidly he said, “I would ask you…” He was not the master and he was not going to choose his successor. Hyakujo was the master almost on the verge of death.
The second disciple Goho did a little better. Goho said, “Osho!” Osho is a very honorable word. There are many respectful words, but the sweetness of Osho, the love, the respect, the gratitude, all are together in it. It is just like Christians using “reverend,” but that is no comparison to it. Just the very sound of Osho – even if we don’t understand Japanese, the very sound is very sweet. He said, “Osho! You should shut up!”