So Hither And So Hence

The way of which men come we cannot know;
Nor can we see the path by which they go.
Why mourn then for him who came to you,
Lamenting through the tears?…
Weep not, for such is the life of man.
Unasked he came and unbidden he went.
Ask yourself again whence came your child
To live on earth this little time?
By one way come and by another gone,
As human to die, and pass to other births — So hither and so hence — why should you weep?

– Poem attributed to Bhikkhuni Patacara, taken from a speech given by her to a group of women who were struggling with the loss of children.

The Moon Cannot be Stolen

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing in it to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. “You may have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you shoud not return emptyhanded. Please take my clothes as a gift.”

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow, ” he mused, “I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.”

– From the 13th Century Zen Collection ‘Shaseki shÅ«’, written by Zen master MujÅ«.

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Once there was a devoted old woman who built a place of retreat for a monk, arranging that he would not lack for anything, so that he could concentrate upon his meditation and practice.

One day, after twenty years, she instructed her daughter: “Today, after serving the Master his meal, take advantage of the situation to embrace him tightly, asking him at the same time, ‘how does it feel to be hugged these days?’ Come back and let me know his answer as faithfully as you can.”

The daughter dutifully did as she was told, putting her arms around the Master and asking the question.

The Master replied, ‘I am not moved in the very least by sexual desire, no different from a dried up tree leaning against a cold mass of rocks in the middle of winter, when not even a drop of warmth can be found.’

The young girl repeated the answer to her mother, who said unhappily, ‘I have really wasted my time and effort during the last twenty years. Little did I know that I was only supporting a common mortal!’ Having said this, she went out, evicted the monk, lit a fire and burned the meditation hut to the ground.

– Unknown origin, told by Master Tam, Zen Tradition.