The following is copied word for word from the book "After Zen" written by Janwillem van de Wetering (page 27)
"There is a Zen monatery. Tokusan is the abbot, Seppo is the head monk [abbots teach, head monks are temple managers], and one day the noon meal is late. Tokusan, holding his bowl, enters the hall. Seppo says, "I didn't hear the bell announcing lunch and the gong hasn't been sounded either. Old man with your bowl, what are you doing?"
Tokusan is quiet. He lowers his head and returns to his room. Seppo now tells another monk, Ganto, "Tokusan may be great but he never understood the final verse."
Background on this Koan:
(none listed at the moment)
What some people think:
Now in the book where this excerpt is from, it is mentioned that there is no meaning. And that in itself is the meaning. That Tokusan was free of the need for meaning in this case, he simply lived in the moment. It is explained that Tokusan probably didn't realize lunch would be late until he was informed by Seppo. Therefore Tokusan decided as the author put it "...(to avoid hanging around a) drafty dharma hall...(and wait it out in his) cozy room."
My thoughts on this koan:
I haven't had a lot of time to work on this koan as I was simply reading a nice story in van de Wetering's book. But my initial thought was very simply this "It's not yet time to eat, so the abbot left." It may not be as profound as the explanation in the book, but I think I was on point. Maybe I didn't see a deeper meaning if one existed. I did notice the last line "...never understood the final verse." and wondered if that had something to do with it. Because I of course have no clue what Seppo was talking about there. I wonder if Tokusan was teaching Seppo at the point where the abbot took a bow, or was he just responding appropriately to the current moment. Either way, he was in-fact teaching Seppo. Or at least the opportunity was there, whether-or-not Seppo decided to be taught.