Stingy in Teaching

Kusuda, a young doctor in Tokyo went to see a friend from college, who had been studying Zen.

"I am unable to tell you what Zen is," Kusuda's friend said, "but one this is sure; if you understand Zen, you won't be afraid of death."

"Fine", replied Kusuda. "I am going to try Zen. Where may I find a teacher?"

"Go to Nan'in, the master," his friend answered.

So the young doctor went to pay a visit to Nan'in. He took a nine and half inch long dagger with him too, in order to test if the teacher was afraid of death.

As soon as Nan'in clapped eyes on Kusuda, he said: "Hello there, friend. How have you been? It's been a long time since we saw each other!"

Kusuda, who was mightily confused, replied: "We never met each other before."

"Correct," said Nan'in. "I mistook you for a different doctor who is studying here."

With that start, Kusuda had missed his chance to test the Zen master. With reluctance, he asked if he could be taught by the master.

Nan'in said, "Zen is not a hard undertaking. If you are a doctor, treat your patients kindly. That's Zen."

Kusuda went to see Nan'in three more times. Every time Nan'in gave him the same instructions. "A doctor shouldn't be wasting time here. Go back and look after your patients."

"It was not yet obvious to Kusuda how this teaching would remove fear of dying. On his next visit he complained to Nan'in, "My friend said that when someone who studies Zen will have no fear of death. Every time I come, all you teach me is to look after me patients. I already know that. If that's all Zen is, I will not visit here again."

"I have been too strict with you," Nan'in smiled, "let me show you a Koan." He handed a copy of Joshu's Mu (No-Thing) to Kusuda. This is the first mind enlightening problem in 'The Gateless Gate'.

Kusuda set his mind to the problem of Joshu's Mu for two years, and at length he considered he had come to a resolution of mind. However, his teacher, Nan'in told him, "You are not there yet."

Kusuda continued to concentrate on the problem for another year and a half. Over this period his mind became calm, his problems evaporated, and Mu (No-Thing) became the truth. He looked after his patients with kindness, and without even being aware of it, he was free from fears about life and death.

When he went to visit his teacher, the old master just smiled.

Morgan Park juggles a busy career and family life and keeps on an even keel by practicing meditation every morning and evening. She shares her tips for meditation techniques at Stories on Zen. There you can enjoy classic and more modern Zen stories from Japan, in Sand and Stone, a collection of Zen stories.

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