Gyosan's Greeting

At the end of the one-hundred-day seclusion, Gyosan met his teacher, Isan. "I did not see you around all summer," Isan said, "what were you doing?" "I have been cultivating a piece of land," Gyosan replied, "and reaped a bushel of millet." "Then," commented Isan, "you did not spend this summer in vain."

"What were you doing this summer?" Gyosan asked. The old teacher replied, "I ate once a day at noon and slept for a few hours after midnight." "Then you did not pass this summer in vain," Gyosan said and stuck out his tongue. "You should have some self-respect," Isan observed.

At Zen monasteries there is a customary three-month summer retreat called Ango. Monks and students meditate and work during this period, which is Zen itself. At the end of Ango the student greets his teacher. This greeting is a test of his understanding. So when the student, Gyosan, met his teacher, Isan, he was proud of his hard work. He was confident and wanted to know if his teacher had been working too. But he was so confident that he was disrespectful. Here, Isan showed himself to be a kind teacher: he did not take offence but cautioned Gyosan to respect himself.


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