26.The Misunderstood Debate

Once, in a Zen temple in the northern part of Japan, two brother monks resided together. The elder monk was knowledgeable, while the younger monk, unfortunate in his appearance, possessed only one eye. A wandering monk arrived at the temple, seeking lodging and challenging the brothers to a debate about the profound teachings of Buddhism. Fatigued from his studies, the elder brother advised the younger one to engage in the dialogue silently.
Thus, the young monk and the visitor proceeded to the shrine and took their seats. After a short while, the traveler stood up and approached the elder brother, declaring, "Your younger brother is truly remarkable. He has bested me in the debate." Intrigued, the elder monk requested an account of the dialogue.
The traveler began, "At first, I raised one finger, representing Buddha, the enlightened one. In response, he raised two fingers, symbolizing Buddha and his teachings. Then, I held up three fingers, signifying Buddha, his teachings, and the community of followers leading a harmonious life. Astonishingly, he clenched his fist and thrust it towards my face, indicating that all three aspects emanate from a single realization. Consequently, I admitted defeat and realized I had no right to stay here." With these words, the traveler departed.
Meanwhile, the younger monk burst into the elder brother's presence, who presumed his sibling to have emerged victorious. "So, you have won the debate," the elder one remarked.
"Winning? Not at all. I plan to beat him up!" retorted the younger monk.
Curious, the elder brother asked, "Please enlighten me about the subject of your debate."
"Why, as soon as he laid eyes on me, he held up one finger, suggesting that I have only one eye. As a gesture of politeness, I held up two fingers, acknowledging that he has two eyes. However, that impolite rascal then held up three fingers, implying that between us, we only possess three eyes. Enraged, I was about to strike him, but he fled, abruptly concluding our encounter!"
Conclusion: This Zen story underscores the pitfalls of miscommunication and misunderstanding. The wandering monk intended to engage in a profound debate, using gestures to represent essential Buddhist principles. However, the young monk misinterpreted the finger signals, focusing solely on the surface level, leading to an entirely different understanding of the encounter.
The lesson here lies in the importance of open-mindedness, active listening, and clarifying assumptions. Misunderstandings can arise when we fail to truly comprehend others' intentions and perspectives. It serves as a reminder to approach interactions with curiosity and a willingness to seek deeper understanding, rather than jumping to conclusions based on initial impressions.
27. The Voice of Happiness
Following the passing of Bankei, a blind resident living near the master's temple shared an intriguing observation with a friend. Due to his blindness, he relied on the sound of people's voices to evaluate their character. What he noticed was a remarkable contrast in how individuals expressed happiness and offered condolences.
Ordinarily, when someone congratulated another on their happiness or success, the blind man discerned an underlying tone of envy in their voices. It seemed that behind their well-wishes, there lay a hidden longing for the same fortune. Likewise, when people expressed condolences for another's misfortune, the blind man detected a subtle hint of pleasure and satisfaction, as if they found solace in the idea that their own world still held opportunities.
However, Bankei stood apart from the rest. In all his encounters with Bankei, the blind man encountered a voice steeped in authenticity. Whenever Bankei expressed happiness, the blind man heard only genuine joy resonating within his words. Similarly, when Bankei conveyed sorrow, the blind man perceived a profound and sincere sadness.
In this anecdote, we witness the power of authenticity in communication. Bankei's unwavering sincerity, evident through his voice, demonstrates the impact of genuine emotions and the profound connection it creates between individuals. It serves as a reminder to cultivate sincerity and integrity in our own interactions, allowing our voices to convey true emotions and fostering genuine connections with others.