The thief, left it behind:Every single day is a humbling experience that I don't know anything. How could one possibly know it all anyway. But, the fact that we couldn't possibly know it all should mean that every one of us should be humble to the core, and yet we are not!
at the window.
I came across that verse in this essay, in which the author provides the backstory to it:
According to traditional lore, the Japanese Zen master and poet Ryokan Taigu, who lived from 1758 to 1831, was a happy hermit. He trained in a monastery for 10 years, then rejected conventional religion. He went on to live a simple life, meditating, writing poetry, occasionally drinking sake with rural farmers, and sharing his modest meals with the birds and beasts.Picture in your mind a naked Zen monk running after the burglar to give him the cushion that he forgot!
He didn’t have much to steal. But one night, a thief came to Ryokan’s spare mountain hut looking for treasure. The criminal found nothing of value and was disappointed, which saddened the Zen master. It’s said that the poet pressed his clothes—or his blanket, depending on which account you read—upon the thief, saying, “You’ve come such a long way to see me, please accept this gift.”
The stunned thief took the poet’s clothing. But he didn’t take anything that mattered to the Zen master, who reportedly spent the rest of the evening naked, gazing at the moon in the sky—a jewel that no one could steal, yet everyone can enjoy. Ryokan was still a bit sad, as he hadn’t been able to give the thief this most valuable of treasures. In his diary, the Zen master penned a now-famous poem
The story is told by Zen teachers to remind students that most people are attached to things that don’t really matter, while missing the marvels that abound in the natural world.Indeed!
A couple of night ago, we looked up at the crescent of the moon, and almost right next to it was the ultra-shiny Venus. We marveled at the sight.
The thief left it behind!
The following evening, Venus had moved farther away, and the moon was more puffed up too.
The thrill of an unusual natural event like a lunar eclipse only highlights the fact that we ignore the everyday wonders that surround us all the time. We spend our days and nights staring at screens, and don’t gaze up at the sky nearly enough. That means we’re missing out on great riches that are available to everyone, but appreciated by only a few.There are great riches everywhere. I often blog about these. Good to also have this Zen story and verse in my back-pocket.