15 Shoun & His Mother

Shoun embarked on the path of becoming a teacher of Soto Zen. During his student days, his father passed away, leaving him with the responsibility of caring for his elderly mother.

Wherever Shoun went for meditation practice, he would bring his mother along. This meant that when he visited monasteries, he couldn't reside with the other monks. Instead, he would build a small house for his mother and take care of her there. Shoun sustained himself by transcribing sutras and Buddhist verses, earning a few coins for their sustenance.
When Shoun purchased fish for his mother, some people would ridicule him, as monks were expected to follow a vegetarian diet. However, Shoun remained unperturbed by their judgments. Nonetheless, his mother felt hurt witnessing her son being laughed at. Eventually, she made the decision to become a nun herself, embracing a vegetarian lifestyle. They embarked on a shared journey of study and practice.
Shoun possessed a deep affinity for music and was a skilled harpist, a talent he shared with his mother. On nights of the full moon, they would joyfully play music together. One evening, a young woman passing by their house was profoundly moved by their harmonies. She invited Shoun to her home the following evening to play for her, an invitation he graciously accepted. A few days later, Shoun encountered the young woman on the street and expressed his gratitude for her hospitality. This encounter, however, became a subject of mockery from others, as the woman was known to be associated with a red-light district.
One day, Shoun departed for a distant temple to deliver a lecture. Several months later, he returned home only to discover that his mother had passed away. Unaware of his whereabouts, his friends had already commenced the funeral proceedings.
Approaching the coffin, Shoun struck it with his staff and spoke, "Mother, your son has returned."
In a voice that seemed to echo her presence, he heard the reply, "I am glad to see you have returned, son."
"Indeed, I am glad too," Shoun responded. Then, addressing those gathered around him, he declared, "The funeral ceremony is complete. You may now bury the body."
As Shoun grew older, he became aware that his time on Earth was drawing to a close. He gathered his disciples around him one morning, informing them that he would pass away at noon. Lighting incense before the portraits of his mother and his revered old teacher, he composed a poem:
For fifty-six years I lived as best I could,
Making my way in this world.
Now the rain has ended, the clouds are clearing,
The blue sky has a full moon.
As his disciples surrounded him, chanting sutras, Shoun peacefully departed during the recitation of the sacred verses.
16. Nor Far From Buddhahood. The quote from the Bible.
Once upon a time, there was a university student who went to visit a Zen master named Gasan. Curious about different spiritual teachings, the student asked Gasan, "Have you ever read the Christian Bible?"
Gasan replied, "No, but please read it to me."
Intrigued, the student opened the Bible and began to read from the book of St. Matthew. The passage he read said, "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these... Take, therefore, no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself."
After hearing these words, Gasan responded, "Whoever uttered those words, I consider an enlightened man."
Feeling encouraged, the student continued reading, "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened."
Impressed, Gasan remarked, "That is excellent. Whoever said that is not far from Buddhahood."
This Zen story highlights the universal nature of spiritual wisdom. Gasan, a Zen master, recognized the profound truth in the words from the Christian Bible, acknowledging the depth of insight and understanding within them. It suggests that different spiritual paths can converge on fundamental truths, emphasizing the shared essence of various teachings. Gasan's response reflects his open-mindedness and his recognition that wisdom can be found beyond the confines of a particular tradition. Ultimately, the story encourages us to seek truth and enlightenment wherever it may be found, transcending the boundaries of religious or philosophical labels.