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Chapter 3: Players of a Game

Muso, the national teacher,
and one of the most illustrious masters of his day,
left the capital in the company of a disciple
for a distant province.

On reaching the Tenryu river
they had to wait for an hour
before boarding the ferry;
just as it was about to leave the shore
a drunken samurai ran up
and leapt into the packed boat,
nearly swamping it.
He tottered wildly as the small craft
made its way across the river, and,
fearing for the safety of the passengers,
the ferryman begged him to stand quietly.

“We’re like sardines in here!”
said the samurai gruffly.
Then, pointing to Muso:
“Why not toss out the bonzae?”
“Please be patient,” Muso said,
“we’ll reach the other side soon.”
“What!” bawled the samurai, “me be patient?
Listen here, if you don’t jump off this thing
and start swimming,
I swear I’ll drown you.”

The master’s continued calm so infuriated the samurai
that he struck Muso’s head with his iron fan,
drawing blood.

Muso’s disciple had had enough by this time,
and as he was a powerful man,
wanted to challenge the samurai on the spot.
“I can’t permit him to go on living after this,” he said to the master.
“Why get so worked up over a trifle?” Muso said with a smile.
“It’s exactly in matters of this kind
that the bonzae’s training proves itself.
Patience, you must remember,
is more than just a word.”

He then recited an extempore waka:
“The beater and the beaten:
mere players of a game
ephemeral as a dream.”

When the boat reached shore,
and Muso and his disciple got off,
the samurai ran up
and prostrated himself at the master’s feet.
Then and there he became a disciple of the master.

Seeking for something, desiring for something, is the basic disease of the mind. Not seeking, not desiring, is the basic health of your being.

It is very easy to go on changing the objects of desire, but that is not the way of transformation. You can desire money, you can desire power; you can change the objects of desire - you can start desiring godliness - but you remain the same because you go on desiring. The basic change is to be brought not in the objects of desire, but in your subjectivity. If desiring stops - and remember, I am not saying that it has to be stopped - if desiring stops, then you are for the first time at home, peaceful, patient, blissful, and for the first time life is available to you and you are available to life. In fact, the very division between you and life disappears, and this state of non-division is the state of existence.

People come to me from all over the world; they travel thousands of miles. When they come to me and I ask, “Why have you come?” somebody says, “I am a seeker of the divine.” Somebody says, “I am a seeker of truth.”

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