Monday, 23 May 2016

Hakuin Ekaku

                When the great Zen reformer, Hakuin Ekaku, was still a student, he traveled from temple to temple seeking to deepen his practice. At one point in his journey, he was joined by two older monks carrying bundles in which they kept their belongings. They were cynical men who, when they noticed how earnest their young companion was, were unscrupulous about taking advantage of him.
One of the men said, “I’m not feeling well, and I’ve travelled such a long distance. I don’t know if I have the strength to continue carrying this bundle.”
Hakuin readily offered to carry the bundle as well as his own, and, as he walked, he was so absorbed in his meditation on the koan Mu that he was barely aware of the added weight.
Seeing how his partner had fared, the other monk began to moan, “Ah! We’ve come such a long way, and yet we still have a long journey before us. And I, too, have become ill! Perhaps you could help me as well?”
Hakuin agreed and took up the third bundle.  Still focused on Mu, he was able to carry all three loads.
Eventually they came to a ferry they needed to board in order to cross a lake. Hakuin laid the three bundles down and settled himself into meditation posture. He was quickly absorbed in a deep samadhi. The weather turned bad, and soon the boat began heaving badly on the rough waters. Although other passengers began to moan in agony, Hakuin persisted in his meditation and eventually, tired from his exertions, drifted gently into asleep. He slept soundly for hours and only awoke after the boat had docked. When he opened his eyes, he was assaulted by the smell of vomit. Looking around, he found that his companions and all the other passengers were lolling about the deck sick because of the turbulent waters they had run into. Hakuin alone had passed the journey unfazed.
As he walked down the gangplank steadily while the rest of the passengers lurched about unsurely, the captain of the ferry remarked, “You’re quite the young rascal, aren’t you?”
Hakuin was absorbed once more in the koan and went his way.

[Hakuin Ekaku – Zen Masters of Japan: 229-50, 254, 261]

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