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  Jane Miller
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Articles -- Zen master

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived in solitude in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening he returned from a walk to discover that a thief had entered his hut and was looking for something to steal but the hut was totally empty.

Without hesitation, Ryokan greeted the thief warmly and said, "You have come a long way to visit me and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift."

The thief, too astonished to speak, took the clothes and left without a word. Later on Ryokan sat naked in meditation and gazed up at the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon."

There are two lessons in this story. The first is Ryokan's open-hearted welcome. He does not see a thief. He sees a human being in need. And he offers not only his robe, but most importantly he offers warmth, respect and kindness. He transformed a scene that could have been violent and angry into one of warmth and peace.

The second lesson is that Ryokan does not see himself as a poor man. He feels a deep connection with the universe and so there is no lack. He is able to appreciate the simple beauty of the moon and to feel that he has a treasure. And then he wishes to share this greater wealth - this feeling of bliss.

You don't have to be a Zen master to emulate some of these beautiful traits. I remember walking along a busy street with a friend of mine, when a street person asked for some change. My friend immediately reached into his pocket and gave the man a handful of change, looked him in the eye, took his hand and said warmly, "You have yourself a good day!" The man looked surprised and visibly straightened up and smiled, saying, "Thank you. Thank you." We were all smiling. There was a connection. I don't know about the man, but I felt a sort of glow all day and I still feel it when I recall that moment.

When you are willing to look deeply and see the person behind the role you will be astonished at what you discover. Everyone has their story and they are in their situation for a valid reason. Connecting with another human being with respect and kindness has a profound affect on both of you and spreads far beyond that tiny space and moment.

And when it comes to the notion of feeling bliss in little things and wanting to share that bliss, children provide many examples…

When my husband was a little boy his parents gave him a bell for his tricycle. John went off happily ringing the bell. Later on he returned home and his dad noticed that the bell was gone. He asked, "Where did the bell go?" John replied, "Well, I saw this other little boy on a tricycle and he didn't have one."


 
 
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