Saturday, April 22, 2006

From "The Collection of Stone and Sand" by Muju

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 to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. "You have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift."

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

Ryoken sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon."


Hiromi said...

There's a similar story of a thief who broke into the house of an old woman who was a devout Buddhist. He tore up the place looking for things to take, but finding nothing, he left. Some distance from her house, she catches up to him. She'd been running, and hands him several coins of very small worth, happy to have found something to give him.

The thief snatches the coins and runs away. He repents of his evil ways and becomes a great doer of good.

This kind of "pure heart" trope runs through many Japanese folk tales.

Rufus said...

Right. I can think of a few others. I don't know if I read it like I'm supposed to. I enjoy these stories because they're so hard for me to understand. Harder than Kant even. The pure heart eludes my understanding in some way. Maybe I've read too much Nietzsche.

Hiromi said...

I'm sure you got that the moon was more valuable than the clothes, though.

Rufus said...

Ahhhh... Yeah, I sensed it, but almost as background.