The truly skilful are able
to correct the unskilful
without antagonising the latter.
When Zen Master Ikkyu was still a child, he began to study Zen in a monastery. Ikkyu’s master had a jar of candy that he was particularly fond of and, to keep the novices from eating it, he told them that the jar was filled with poison. Ikkyu, however, was not fooled.
One day he opened the jar and ate some of the delicious candy. It was so good that he shared it with the other novices. They all enjoyed the candy very much and ate every last piece. Ikkyu then dropped the jar and broke it. When the master returned, Ikkyu went to him and said, ‘Master, I dropped your favourite jar and broke it.’ ‘Well’ said the master, ‘all things must pass. It’s good you told me. Where is the poison that was inside?’
‘Oh Master,’ said Ikkyu, ‘when the jar broke I felt so bad about it that I ate the poison. I thought it a fitting punishment. But strangely, nothing has happened to me.’ The master looked suspiciously at Ikkyu, but the boy just stood there quietly. ‘Er, yes. hummph,’ said the master. ‘Very strange. You are a lucky child, after all.’ And, still somewhat confused he let Ikkyu go. [Of course, Ikkyu’s theft and deceit shouldn’t be emulated, though he did practise some generosity and teach us some lessons indirectly. It would be better to do so without breaking any precepts at all.]
One Hand Clapping: Zen Stories for All Ages
Retold by Rafe Martin & Manuela Soares
108 Zen Stories Illustrated & Demystified