Saturday, March 18, 2006

A Zen Koan

It was a small town where Master Naoki lived. He didn't have an enormous monastery to himself nor did he have a huge following. He was, hence, very happy and at peace. In the same town lived an entrepreneur by the name Daiki. Daiki had, to a great extent, singly transformed the agricultural town to a prosperous industrial one. He had constructed firm roads and waterways. Schools were established and trading market places were constructed for fair trade. He was the iron hand behind the administrative body of the town and people respected him as much as they feared him. But in his heart was this constant desire to be acknowledged by great people from different walks of life. When a great samurai visited his town, he would show him all the metallurgical units and the various martial arts schools he had established. He wouldn't rest till the samurai confessed that he had never seen any other town with such facilities and that Daiki-san was truly a great visionary. When a sage visited his town he would show him all the wonderful places of worship and the Zen schools that he had funded. When the sage bowed low and congratulated him for such a great feat, Daiki-san slept well that night.
On one day the head of Kobe monastery stopped at this town. He was on his way back to Kobe after completing a pilgrimage. He wanted to meet Naoki-san before he returned to his monastery. Daiki-san rushed to greet him and paid him all the respects due to the head monk. He arranged for a palanquin and had the head monk taken to the great Buddha temple at the outskirts of the town. He explained to the head-monk the details of procuring the finest granite in order to carve the feet of the Buddha and how he had to engage more than a 1000 men to erect all the pillars and the dome. He then explained how he constructed the pond at the foot of the hillock for pilgrims to use to wash themselves and the aqueducts that he had constructed in order to keep the pond fresh. At length he paused and waited for the head-monk's reaction. The monk smiled and said, "I would like to meet Naoki-san."
Daiki-san nodded and requested to show some other parts of the town before they stopped at Naoki-san's residence. He showed the different schools of philosophy, especially Zen, that he had constructed and had the students recite the sutras and conduct debates. He showed the head-monk various texts that were published in the town. After a grand display of all this he searched the head-monk's face for awe. The head-monk smiled and told Daiki-san, "I would like to meet Naoki-san."
Daiki-san was much disturbed but instructed the palanquin bearers to head towards Naoki-san's residence. Daiki-san was quiet throughout his journey and wondered what was it about Naoki-san that could distract the head-monk from all the great deeds of his. He had a vassal trot beside the head-monk's palanquin and describe every single monument and effort that they came across. Soon the passed by the holy tree and reached Naoki-san's house.
Naoki-san rushed out to greet them and offered each of them a fruit. He offered water to the palanquin bearers and to the vassal and then gave them a basket of fresh fruits. He then sat down with the head monk and Daiki-san. They spoke at length about various topics and about the head-monk's pilgrimage and the state of the administration at Kyoto and Kobe. When they were ready to leave, the head-monk, with a twinkle in his eye, asked Naoki-san, "Daiki-san here has done a lot for the town, hasn't he?"
Naoki-san bowed low and said, "He is like the seed that springs the holy tree."
Daiki-san was overjoyed and his breast swelled with sudden pride. He was glad that his worth was finally made clear to the head-monk. He bowed low and escorted the head-monk to his car and they headed back. When they were about to pass by the holy tree, Daiki-san couldn't help but say, "I am glad that Naoki-san helped you see my role in this town."
The head-monk smiled and asked the bearers to pause. He alighted and walked up to the tree. Daiki-san followed. The monk was looking up at the leaves with the kindness which fills the glance at one's child while she is asleep. He turned to Daiki-san and asked, "You didn't listen to Naoki-san's words correctly, did you?"
Daiki-san was puzzled and stared blankly at the head-monk.
"It is the seed which shoots a tree which bears a fruit which contains the seed."
He paused and started walking towards his car.
"Let us go. It is time for me to return to Kobe."


3 comments:

  1. All is one enormous flowing movement; and it seems ridiculous when we claim ownership or title to any particular activity or object- you have brought this out very well in this very beautiful post.

    Reading this Koan was a perfect way to start a lazy sunday morning.

    :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I found 2 things weird in your site.
    1. If you have an image which is inline with the text, then the "hand" symbol that you get on mouseover of that image is restricted to that image itself.
    2. If you have an image without any text beside it (like the chakra one) then the "hand" symbol comes up all across the width of the content page. (left navigation is not affected by this)
    Why so?

    Oh yeah, good post by the way. :-)
    Sookie

    ReplyDelete
  3. Dear P,
    Glad you like it... :-)

    Dear S,
    Doesn't happen on my browser!

    ReplyDelete