The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.
A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.
This made her parents very angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin. In great anger the parents went to the master.
“Is that so?” was all he would say.
After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and everything else the little one needed.
A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth - that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market.
The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back again.
Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was, “Is that so?”
The most important sentences in life are those we never say. There are only six words of dialog in this story, and they’re the same, three-word statement, repeated twice.
But there’s so much more to it, isn’t there? So many thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, hopes, assumptions. None of which are ever expressed.
The parents thought their daughter was too young to have a child. The daughter knew it, and she knew the father was unfit. But she was desperate to take care of her baby, and she hoped blaming a good man would help. And it did. Of course, like all culprits plagued by their own conscience, eventually, she had to bring the truth to light herself.
Through all of this, the master remained impartial. He accepted what was without judgment or assumptions. He stayed unbiased and open to the idea that he too did not know the whole truth of the matter. Instead of worrying about his reputation, he saw the task at hand and did what was needed. A child needed care and so he provided.
How often in life do we insist on being right? How often do we demand the truth come out right now? Because we think it’s time we get what we “deserve?” But is that so?
What if we were patient? Accepting? Not worried about who we are or what we look like right now, but about what the world needs us to be right now.
Sooner or later, the truth will come out. We can’t know what we deserve, but whatever it is, we’ll get it when we’re ready. Until then, the only sentence we really need is a question that keeps our mind open. A simple, three-word question.
“Is that so?”
About Monday Zen: Most people hate Monday. Why? In a good life, it’s a day like any other. At the very least, it shouldn’t be worse by default. That’s what Monday Zen is for: To make sure you start the week with calm, poise, and determination.
Let’s not derail our trains of thought before they leave the station. Let’s enjoy the journey.
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