The Honest Poverty Of The Zen Monk And The Samurai
Secondly, the so-called honest poverty is a characteristic of both
the Zen monk and the Samurai. To get rich by an ignoble means is
against the rules of Japanese chivalry or Bushido. The Samurai would
rather starve than to live by some expedient unworthy of his dignity.
There are many instances, in the Japanese history, of Samurais who
were really starved to death in spite of their having a hundred
pieces of gold carefully preserved to meet the expenses at the time
of an emergency; hence the proverb: "The falcon would not feed on the
ear of corn, even if he should starve." Similarly, we know of no
case of Zen monks, ancient and modern, who got rich by any ignoble
means. They would rather face poverty with gladness of heart.
Fu-gai, one of the most distinguished Zen masters just before the
Restoration, supported many student monks in his monastery. They
were often too numerous to be supported by his scant means. This
troubled his disciple much whose duty it was to look after the
food-supply, as there was no other means to meet the increased demand
than to supply with worse stuff. Accordingly, one day the disciple
advised Fu-gai not to admit new students any more into the monastery.
Then the master, making no reply, lolled out his tongue and said:
"Now look into my mouth, and tell if there be any tongue in it." The
perplexed disciple answered affirmatively. "Then don't bother
yourself about it. If there be any tongue, I can taste any sort of
food." Honest poverty may, without exaggeration, be called one of
the characteristics of the Samurais and of the Zen monks; hence a
proverb: "The Zen monk has no money, moneyed Monto knows
The priest belonging to Shin Shu, who are generally rich.