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The Resemblance Of The Zen Monk To The Samurai








Let us point out in brief the similarities between Zen and Japanese
chivalry. First, both the Samurai and the Zen monk have to undergo a
strict discipline and endure privation without complaint. Even such
a prominent teacher as Ei-sai, for example, lived contentedly in such
needy circumstances that on one occasion[FN#81] he and his disciples
had nothing to eat for several days. Fortunately, they were
requested by a believer to recite the Scriptures, and presented with
two rolls of silk. The hungry young monks, whose mouths watered
already at the expectation of a long-looked-for dinner, were
disappointed when that silk was given to a poor man, who called on
Ei-sai to obtain some help. Fast continued for a whole week, when
another poor follow came in and asked Ei-sai to give something. At
this time, having nothing to show his substantial mark of sympathy
towards the poor, Ei-sai tore off the gilt glory of the image of
Buddha Bhecajya and gave it. The young monks, bitten both by hunger
and by anger at this outrageous act to the object of worship,
questioned Ei-sai by way of reproach: Is it, sir, right for us
Buddhists to demolish the image of a Buddha? Well, replied Ei-sai
promptly, Buddha would give even his own life for the sake of
suffering people. How could he be reluctant to give his halo? This
anecdote clearly shows us self-sacrifice is of first importance in
the Zen discipline.

[FN#81] The incident is told by Do-gen in his Zui-mon-ki.






Next: The Honest Poverty Of The Zen Monk And The Samurai

Previous: The Social State Of Japan When Zen Was Established By Ei-sai And Do-gen



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