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Is that so?

July 16, 2012

Hakuin, the Zen master lived in a small village. He was revered by everyone in and out of the village as one living a pure life.

In the same village there lived a beautiful girl. One day her parents discovered that she was pregnant. They were enraged and demanded to know who was the father. At first resistant to confess, the anxious and embarrassed girl finally pointed to Hakuin, the Zen master. The outraged parents went to Hakuin with their daughter’s accusation. He replied “Is that so?” They along with whole village hurled abuses at the master and went away.

When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who now was viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. “Is that so?” Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.

For many months he took very good care of the child until the daughter could no longer withstand the lie she had told. She confessed that the real father was a young man in the village whom she had tried to protect. The parents were embarrassed. They immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With profuse apologies they explained to him all that had happened.

“Is that so?” Hakuin said as he handed them the child.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2012 20:55

    I did not clearly get the story’s underlying meaning. It seems to talk about perception (being relative) and truth (absolute). How did you understand it ?


    • July 23, 2012 19:24

      Ravi – I am also not sure why I like the story.. There is something that I can not quite point at. The sage could have retorted, leading to arguments, justice etc which would have created tumult in his life and in other’s life.. He merely accepted, asking Is it so? (Do you think so?) never stating that what they are speaking was right.. and flowed along.. For him, may be, something else was more important than engaging in these small arguments..

      I was telling a friend of mine that what I liked about the story is the lack of resistance. When you cease to resist you start understanding. When I stop resisting what others are saying, I am in a better position to understand their state of mind. Of course it need not be the way this man did here in this story 🙂

      Richard Bach writes about being a Messiah in his book, Illusions. Here read this small story from the book.. It also connects to this story in some way.. Don’t know how though 🙂 –


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