Is That So?

By Anthony Gold

The Zen Master Hakuin lived in a small town in Japan, and was held in high regard by all who knew him. Many came to him seeking guidance and spiritual advice. 
Then it came to pass that the teenage daughter of one of his closest neighbours became pregnant. The parents demanded to know who the father was, and after much shouting and arguing, the daughter named Hakuin.

The parents were infuriated. They stormed over to the Zen Master’s home, pounding on the door and yelling accusations. “You scoundrel!” they hollered when he answered. “You got our daughter pregnant!”

“Is that so?” was all he said.

News of the scandal quickly spread throughout the small town. No one came to Hakuin for guidance anymore. He was not bothered. After a time, the child was born, the parents bringing it immediately to Hakuin’s house.

“You did this,” they said. “Now you take responsibility for it.”

The Master took loving care of the child.

A year later, the mother of the child remorsefully confessed to her parents that the real father of the child was an errand boy who worked in the nearby market. The parents of the young girl rushed to Hakuin’s house to beg his forgiveness.

“We are so sorry! Our daughter has told us who the real father is, and we have come to take the baby back from you.”

“Is that so?” is all Hakuin said as he handed the child back to them.

This classic Zen story illustrates how peacefully the master accepts the drama unfolding around him. Nothing that happens is “good” or “bad” – it simply “is”. Hakuin offers no judgment, remaining in the present stillness of awareness.

Whenever we give something meaning, then we have judged it. “That is so unfair. How cruel of that woman to slander such a good man.” That’s how our ego might have responded.

But there’s another way of looking at the world. One in which we can experience peace in every situation we face.

Peace of mind is clearly an internal matter. It must begin with your own thoughts, and then extend outward. It is from your peace of mind that a peaceful perception of the world arises. (W-pI.34.1)

The Zen Master’s ability to see true reality extended from his thoughts. Such a state is open to all of us – it is simply a matter of choice. Join us in Monday’s class where we’ll explore the meaning we give worldly events and learn how we can practice seeing peace instead of pain. I look forward to seeing you then.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *