Saying so much more
than speaking many words
is one timely act of kindness.
… Ryokan’s sparse use or absence of words came from his lifelong practice of contemplation. An episode… beautifully illustrates Ryokan’s thoughtful way of guiding a young person:
The household of Ryokan’s family, Yamamoto of the Tachibana-ya, was managed by his younger brother Yushi after Ryokan had left home and become a monk. Yushi’s eldest son, Umanosuke, was squandering the family money for his own personal pleasures. Asked by Umanosuke’s mother to give him advice, Ryokan went to the Tachibana-ya. He stayed there for three days but said nothing.
On his departure for his hermitage, Ryokan stood at the porch, called for Umanosuke, and asked him to tue the strings of his straw sandals. Umanosuke’s mother, who stood behind the screen, was hoping that Ryokan would give him some strong advice. Umanosuke didn’t understand why Ryokan had asked him to do such an unusual thing but followed his request. As he bent to the task, he felt something wet on his neck. He was surprised and looked up. He saw Ryokan’s eyes full of tears. At that moment, he felt repentance for his wrongdoings. Ryokan stood up and left without a word.
Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life & Poetry Of Ryokan