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Chapter 10: Compassion Can Only Be Unlimited

One day, while Nan-Sen was living
in a little hut in the mountains,
a strange monk visited him
just as he was preparing
to go to his work in the fields.
Nan-Sen welcomed him, saying,
“Please make yourself at home.
Cook anything you like for your lunch,
then bring some of the leftover food
to me along the road leading to my workplace.”
Nan-Sen worked hard until evening,
and came home very hungry.
The stranger had cooked and enjoyed
a good meal by himself,
then thrown away all provisions
and broken all the utensils.
Nan-Sen found the monk sleeping peacefully
in the empty hut,
but when he stretched his own tired body
beside the stranger’s,
the latter got up and went away.
Years later, Nan-Sen told the anecdote
to his disciples, with the comment,
“He was such a good monk.
I miss him even now.”

Maneesha, Zen is anything but unkindness, but ungracefulness. It is pure compassion. And compassion is tested only when you think it is almost impossible to be compassionate.

This small anecdote about a great Zen master, Nan-Sen, has tremendous implications for you all to understand - not only intellectually, but with your whole being. Feel the meaning in every cell of your body, mind and soul. It will be very difficult to find such a story in the history of any other religion.

One day, while Nan-Sen was living
in a little hut in the mountains,
a strange monk visited him
just as he was preparing
to go to his work in the fields.

Each and every word has to be understood clearly. The stranger is not accepted by people, just his being strange creates fear in you because he is unpredictable. Leaving his hut to work in the field, telling this strange man to rest, needs immense trust, a trust that, even if betrayed, cannot be destroyed.

He does not ask even the name of the monk, nor from where he comes, nor what his purpose is or what he wants from him. No question at all. Such is the approach of Zen - no question at all, but a deep acceptance of the strangeness of everything.

This is just symbolic. Do you know the bamboos outside Buddha Hall? Do you know these people and the clouds that pass over and the rain? Everything is strange and that is the beauty of it. Just as the bamboos and the flowers and the roses and the clouds and the stars are accepted without asking their names, their caste, their country, their race, the same should be the approach to human beings.

Why do you discriminate? Why do you ask a human being his name, his purpose? - just so you can drop the fear of the stranger. In fact, everybody is a stranger, even your wife or your husband or your children. Do you know your children? They are as much strangers as the bamboos or perhaps even more, because they come from you but they are not from you; they come from the beyond. But you do not ask a child, “Why have you come?”

That is the approach of Zen. Nan-Sen did not ask the strange monk - on the contrary, he.

.welcomed him, saying,
“Please make yourself at home.”

In a small anecdote, in a few words the very essence can be expressed: “Make yourself at home.”

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