Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Shido Munan

                Gudo Toshoku had a student who gave up his studies to become an inn keeper far from Gudo’s temple. An occasion arose when Gudo was in the region of the inn, and he stopped by to see how his former student was doing. He was greeted by the inn-keeper’s wife who told the Zen master that her husband was out. She invited him to come in to wait for him, and, as the two sat together, they fell into easy conversation during the course of which the wife confided that her husband had taken to drinking in recent years.
                “When he drinks,” she said, “he can become abusive. He also gambles when he has too much to drink, and he always looses. Really, there are times when I think I and my children would be better off without him. But he’s my husband—what can I do?”
                “Let me see what I can do,” Gudo suggested. “It’s late. You retire, and I’ll wait for your husband. But before you leave, would you please bring me a bottle of your best sake and two cups.”  
                The woman did as Gudo asked. Then she gathered her children together, and they retired to the sleeping quarters. Gudo remained in the main room of the inn, seated in meditation. Around midnight, the inn-keeper returned home in a drunken-state and was embarrassed to find his teacher there. Gudo did not reprimand him for his behaviour and, in fact, indicated the bottle of sake set out on a table. Gudo invited the inn-keeper to share a cup with him, to which the man readily agreed. The two had several cups of wine, chatting idly, and eventually the inn-keeper fell asleep on the floor.
                When he woke the next morning, he found Gudo still seated in meditation before the family shrine.
                “You are awake,” Gudo noted. “And it is time for me to return to the capital.”
                The man, a little hung-over and humiliated that his teacher had seen him in such a disreputable condition, mumbled a reply.
                As Gudo tied his sandals, he remarked, “You know, human life is brief and all things pass away. When you spend your time drinking and gambling, you have no time for other things that may be much more important. Besides which, you bring sorrow to your family and those who depend upon you.”
                The inn-keeper broke into tears and admitted that he had known for some time he needed to change his behaviour. He swore an oath to do so starting that very day, and, as a sign of gratitude, he asked Gudo to allow him to carry his bags on the first stage of his journey. Gudo agreed and the two set off. When they had gone a fair distance, Gudo told the man he should return home. But the man asked to be allowed to accompany the Zen master a little further. Eventually they arrived at the next village, and, once again Gudo offered to take up his own bags. The man said he was willing to accompany Gudo a bit further.  
                The next time Gudo offered to take up his bags, the man shook his head, “I’ll go with you all the way to Edo.”
                Once they came to the city, the man had his head shaved and entered monastic life at the age of 52. Gudo gave him the name Shido Munan, a phrase found in the Xinxin Ming of the third Chinese Patriarch, Jianzhi Sengcan, the first line of which reads “The Perfect Way (shido) has no difficulties (munan).”

[Shido Munan – Zen Masters of Japan: 186-89]

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