Nansen's Little Hut

One day, while Nansen was living in a little hut in the mountains, a strange monk visited him as Nansen was leaving for his work in the fields. Nansen welcomed the monk, saying, "Please make yourself at home. Cook anything you like for your lunch, and then bring some of the leftover food to me along the road heading to my work place." Nansen worked hard until evening and came home very hungry. The stranger had cooked and eaten a meal, then thrown away all other provisions and broken all the utensils! Nansen found him sleeping peacefully in the now empty hut. When Nansen stretched his own tired body down beside the strange monk, the monk got up and went away. Years later Nansen told this story to his students and commented, "He was such a good monk. I miss him even today."

A Zen monk lives a very simple, quiet, and free life. When Nansen lived in the mountain hut, a strange monk came to challenge his Zen life. Even freedom is not free if one is attached to it. It is rather easy to free one's self from human pettiness. But without our knowing it we can become attached to Dharma, Nirvana, poverty, and other forms of "goodness." The visiting monk cooked, ate, and slept as if in his own hut. There was no formality, no pretension. The whole world belonged to him. And he broken all the utensils, too - the utensils of meditation, Nirvana, poverty. Nansen really understood the world of non-attachment, and he never forgot the strange, visiting monk for it.


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