Ganto's Two Meals

Kisan paid a visit to Ganto, who was living in quiet seclusion, and asked, "Brother, are you getting two meals regularly?" "The fourth son of the Cho family supports me, and I am very much obliged to him," said Ganto. "If you do not do your part well, you will be born as an ox in the next life and will have to repay him what you owed him in this life," Kisan cautioned.

Ganto put his fists on his forehead but said nothing. "If you mean horns," Kisan said, "you must stick out your fingers on top of your head." But before he finished speaking, Ganto shouted, "Hey! Kisan did not understand his meaning and said, "If you know something deeper, why don't you explain it to me?" Ganto hissed at him and said, "You have been studying Buddhism for thirty years, as I have, and you are still wandering around. I have nothing to do with you. Just get out." And with these words he shut the door in Kisan's face.

The fourth son of the Cho family happened to be passing by and, out of pity, took Kisan to his home.

"Thirty years ago we were close friends," Kisan said sorrowfully, "but now he has attained something higher than I have and will not impart it to me."

That night Kisan could not sleep. He got up and went to Ganto's house. "Brother," he implored, "please be kind and preach the Dharma for me." Ganto opened the door and disclosed the teachings. The next morning Kisan returned home, happy with attainment.

When Kisan asked Ganto about "two meals regularly" he meant "are you leading a true monk's life?" (Two meals a day, breakfast and lunch, was customary for monks.) Ganto replied that he was greatly obliged to the Cho family. There was no way to return their kindness except by being a good monk. To be a monk, in itself, was a way of returning the favour. Kisan cautioned him against accepting too much kindness; Ganto might, as superstition went, be reborn as Cho's servant, maybe an ox. Ganto put his fists on his forehead: "If you look at life as fifty-fifty, give and take, then I owe them more than service; however, I am already an ox!" But Kisan didn't understand this view of life. So he pursued his dualistic viewpoint: "If you mean to show horns, then you must do it like this" (sticking out fingers).

Ganto, by this time, was thoroughly disgusted with Kisan's shortsightedness: "You have been studying Buddhism for thirty years, and you are still attaching to forms. Just get out!" True friendship is sincere, direct, and open, with no compromise. Ganto was kind. A cup must be emptied before it can be filled. One must be brought to a dead-end before the Way opens up. And one must die before one is born a new person. Late that night, Kisan was ready to experience truth, which cannot be explained.


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