Mokusen’s Hand

Letting Go of Attachments…

Mokusen Hiki was living in a temple in the province of Tamba. One of his adherents complained of the stinginess of his wife.

Mokusen visited the adherent’s wife and showed her his clenched fist before her face.

“What do you mean by that?” asked the surprised woman.

“Suppose my fist were always like that. What would you call it?” he asked.

“Deformed,” replied the woman.

Then he opened his hand flat in her face and asked: “Suppose it were always like that. What then?”

“Another kind of deformity,” said the wife.

“If you understand that much,” finished Mokusen, “you are a good wife.” Then he left.

After his visit, this wife helped her husband to distribute as well as to save.

The Thief Who Became a Disciple

Not just saying good things can make others obey, but more important yourself can do it. The zen teacher looked the thief as real person and as a friend that need of his help.

One evening as Shichiri Kojun was reciting sutras a thief with a sharp sword entered, demanding either his money or his life.

Shichiri told him: “Do not disturb me. You can find the money in that drawer.” Then he resumed his recitation.

A little while afterwards he stopped and called: “Don’t take it all. I need some to pay taxes with tomorrow.”

The intruder gathered up most of the money and started to leave. “Thank a person when you receive a gift.” Shichiri added.

The man thanked him and made off.

A few days afterwards the fellow was caught and confessed, among others, the offence against Shichiri. When Shichiri was called as a witness he said: “This man is no thief, at least as far as I am concerned. I gave him the money and he thanked me for it.”

After he had finished his prison term, the man went to Shichiri and became his disciple.

Zen in a Beggar’s Life

The ropes of habit, attitude and prejudice, it is hard to avoid or prevent

Tosui was a well-known Zen teacher of his time. He had lived in several temples and taught in various provinces.

The last temple he visited accumulated so many adherents that Tosui told them he was going to quit the lecture business entirely. He advised them to disperse and to go wherever they desired. After that no one could find any trace of him.

Three years later one of his disciples discovered him living with some beggars under a bridge in Kyoto. He at once implored Tosui to teach him.

“If you can do as I do for even a couple of days, I might,” Tosui replied.

So the former disciple dressed as a beggar and spent a day with Tosui. The following day one of the beggars died. Tosui and his pupil carried the body off at midnight and buried it on a mountainside. After that they returned to their shelter under the bridge.

Tosui slept soundly the remainder of the night, but the disciple could not sleep. When morning came Tosui said: “We do not have to beg food today. Our dead friend has left some over there.” But the disciple was unable to eat a single bite of it.

“I have said you could not do as I,” concluded Tosui. “Get out of here and do not bother me again.”

Inch Time Foot Gem

Don’t waste your time

A lord asked Takuan, a Zen teacher, to suggest how he might pass the time. He felt his days very long attending his office and sitting stiffly to receive the homage of others.

Takuan wrote eight Chinese characters and gave them to the man:

Not twice this day
Inch time foot gem.
This day will not come again.
Each minute is worth a priceless gem.

Everything is Best

How can everything be the best? It makes no sense, yet all is the best…

When Banzan was walking through a market he overheard a conversation between a butcher and his customer.

“Give me the best piece of meat you have,” said the customer.

“Everything in my shop is the best,” replied the butcher. “You cannot find here any piece of meat that is not the best.”

At these words Banzan became enlightened.