Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Most of the famous Zen monks have left many scrolls and paintings. However, many of them leaves desire for fame or ambition in the content. Even the famous Hakuin (白隠) left some of these traces in his writings. One of the very few pure hearted one was Ryōkan who has become popular in the recent years.
Many people are fond of someone like, Ryōkan, a hermit. But much is misunderstood. If Ryōkan would have become successful, he probably had killed himself. He was someone who had suffered from the success of his ancestors. The success had actually left filth in his ancestral spiritual pipeline. He was born to a rich commercial family. At the same time, the family had a long history as a Shinto priest of Ishi Shrine in Niigata.
It is interesting that most of the Zen monks who became famous had a Shinto family background. As long as you live in Japan, the Ubusuna-kami (the birth place god) will come to interfere when it comes to the advancement of a soul.
When a family has a long history in doing one business, business related problems are always there, and people suffer from jealousy and grudges. Employees might have died from accidents. Those things will create filth in the spiritual pipeline of the family. I sense that Ryōkan suffered from unreasonable anxiety and apathy from a very young age. In spite of being the eldest son in the family, he rejected to inherit the business and left his family at the age of 18 to become a monk. He had difficulty with his father who had so much hope for him. His mother, on the other hand, was a wonderful person who Ryōkan adored. He saw her as the prefect example of motherhood. His father later killed himself after the fall of his business. Ryōkan was deeply hurt by the incident.
Funny episodes are told about Ryōkan. One day when he was taking a nap on the veranda, a flea came out from his sleeve. He talks to the flea, “hey, where do you think you’re going? Come back home” and puts it back into his sleeve. Another story tells about him breaking his own roof of his shabby home for the bamboo shoot that came out from his floor. He was also once caught being mistaken for a robbery and was buried into the ground alive. Even then, he didn't try to defend himself and kept silent.
There is something about him that is very childlike and innocent. But the reason behind his character comes from breakdowns, sadness and sense of impermanence.
He acted as he was a free spirited man. His image seems to have no relation to discipline. But actually, another side of him had ninety disciplines. That makes him different from vagabonds.
Some of his disciplines were:
* Don’t interrupt when others are talking.
* Don't try to convince your beliefs.
* Don’t under value others.
* Don’t quibble while drunk.
* Don’t try to hide your mistakes.
* Don’t show off your intelligence.
* Don’t make promises easily.
* Don’t talk about regrets.
* Don’t make a fake smile.
* Don’t be proud of your position.
* Don’t scold people with your ugly thoughts.
Ryōkan was a man of effort.
Thank you for letting us live