Moss-covered Monk

Moss-covered Monk

Translate

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A History of Samurai and Zen (4)

THE HONEST POVERTY OF THE ZEN MONK AND THE SAMURAI

Secondly, the so-called honest poverty is a characteristic of both the Zen
monk and the Samurai. To get rich by an ignoble means is against the rules
of Japanese chivalry or Bushido. The Samurai would rather starve than to
live by some expedient unworthy of his dignity. There are many instances,
in the Japanese history, of Samurais who were really starved to death in
spite of their having a hundred pieces of gold carefully preserved to meet
the expenses at the time of an emergency; hence the proverb: "The falcon
would not feed on the ear of corn, even if he should starve."

Similarly, we know of no case of Zen monks, ancient and modern, who got rich by any
ignoble means. They would rather face poverty with gladness of heart.
Fugai, one of the most distinguished Zen masters just before the
Restoration, supported many student monks in his monastery. They were
often too numerous to be supported by his scant means. This troubled much
those of his disciples whose duty it was to look after the food-supply, as
there was no other means to meet the increased demand than to supply with
worse stuff. Accordingly, one day the disciple advised Fugai not to admit
new students any more into the monastery. Then the master, making no
reply, lolled out his tongue and said: "Now look into my mouth, and tell if
there be any tongue in it." The perplexed disciple answered affirmatively.

"Then don't bother yourself about it. If there be any tongue, I can taste any
sort of food." Honest poverty may, without exaggeration, be called one of
the characteristics of the Samurais and of the Zen monks; hence a proverb:

" The Zen monk has no money, moneyed monk knows nothing."

~Kaiten Nukariya