Zen Master and the Vase
5th May 2017
Recently I noticed how irritated I was becoming with our new printer which seemed incapable of doing the most basic of things, like printing. This got me thinking about my relationship to my possessions. I lived for five years with very few possessions whilst living in a Buddhist retreat centre, and I must say I was very happy indeed. I rarely missed the THINGS of this world.
One of my reflections has been that it is not really about possessions but about my relationship to my possessions that matters.
I am reminded of Hakuin the meditation master who was 90 years old and who decides to visit his old friend Basho in the next valley. Basho was also 90 years old. They have been friends since they were 8 years old. They entered monastic life together as children and trained together for decades. He gatherers all his monks and nuns together and tells them that he intends to go see his dear old friend Basho. He tells them neither of them has long to live and it was time for them to see each other one last time. He asks them to look after each other in his absence and to practice well.
They have a wonderful time together, reminiscing and joking, but all things must end and it is time for Hakuin to head back to his own monastery.
Hakuin has a very devoted cleaning lady. Hakuin, though he can be very stern when he needed to has always been very kind to her and her family, she loves him very much.
She realises that Hakuin is due back and thinks to herself that she wants to prepare his room for his arrival. She sweeps the floor, cleans his worktops, polishes his ornaments. Then she sees his favourite vase. This vase has been handed down by his master and the masters before him. it is very precious indeed. Each morning after his meditation he caresses the vase and remembers his beloved masters.
She picks up the vase, begins cleaning it and then drops it, it smashes into a hundred pieces.
At that moment the handle of the door to the room begins to move, Hakuin walks in and she looks at him in horror ready to apologise – however, he looks at her in the eyes and says, “Don’t you worry my dear I got that vase for pleasure, not for pain.”
Maybe we could ponder on our relationship to our own possessions. Maybe it is worth asking, do my possessions bring me pleasure or do they bring me pain. Perhaps we can learn to be happy with possessions and happy without them.
Tagged as: Suryacitta
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