Tapping the Arm-rest

At Nansen's monastery one day, the cook monk, Tenza, was entertaining the gardener monk, Enju. While they were eating, they heard a bird sing. The gardener monk tapped his wooden arm-rest with his finger, and the bird sang again. The gardener monk repeated the action, but the bird did not repeat his song. Then Enju turned to the cook monk and asked, "Do you understand?" "No," answered the cook monk, "I do not understand." The gardener monk tapped he wooden arm-rest for the third time.

A bird sang. The gardener monk tapped the wooden arm-rest as if responding to the bird. The bird sang again. The gardener tapped again, but the bird had flown away. The bird sings as nature calls and does not stay long in one place. The gardener monk knows this and asks the cook monk, "Do you understand?" The cook monk does not understand, so the gardener monk taps a third time, so naturally. The gardener monk hears the Dharma everywhere: in the bird's song, in the wind's song, in the insect's cry, in sunshine, in flowers, even in the cook monk's immediate and innocent answer: "I do not understand." That third tap was as serene and natural as the water lily in the morning sun. The lily grows in water but is never wet. Its roots are in mud, but the lily is never defiled.


Popular Posts