Many pupils were studying meditation under the Zen master Sengai. One of them used to arise at night, climb over the temple wall, and go to town on a pleasure jaunt.
Sengai, inspecting the dormitory quarters, found this pupil missing one night and also discovered the high stool he had used to scale the wall. Sengai removed the stool and stood there in its place.
When the wanderer returned, not knowing that Sengai was the stool, he put his feet on the master’s head and jumped down into the grounds. Discovering what he had done, he was horrified.
Sengai said: “It is chilly in the early morning. Be careful not to catch a cold.” The pupil never went out at night again.
The best way to teach is to hold up a mirror and wait for the student to see.
There is no scolding in this story. No raised finger. No ominous instructions and no, “see, I told you so.” Just a piece of advice from one humble man to another. A reminder to a friend. “I care about you. Don’t hurt yourself.”
We don’t need anyone telling us why what we’re doing is wrong. When we know, we always know. We need to start questioning why we’ve been allowing it to go on in the first place. All that takes is one small word, and the only one we’ll hear it from is ourselves: Why?
No one could architect a stronger shock to our system if they tried. So the master didn’t try at all. He looked out for his friend, and, in living by example, prompted him to think about the example he himself was setting.
The best way to teach is to hold up a mirror, but the best teachers don’t hold up any mirrors at all. They are the mirrors we spot our reflections in.
Don’t live through your words. Live through your actions.
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.
Hey! Did you know word of mouth is the main way the work of solo artists grows? If you like Empty Your Cup, can you please share it? Your friends can sign up here.
You can also share on Facebook or tweet about it.