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Chapter 5: Why Not Shoot Yourself?

Shih-kung was a hunter.

Ordinarily we will think that a hunter should be the last person to be initiated, to be ordained as a Zen monk by a great master like Ma Tzu. Logically it seems that hunting is a violent profession, cruel. How can a hunter be initiated into meditation? And how he can become one day a buddha? And how this special transmission is possible? But it has happened thousands of times.

It is far more difficult for a businessman, far more difficult for a politician, to have a sudden experience of the presence of a master, because his work is ugly. The hunter’s work may look violent to us, but it has a beauty of its own. Because he lives with wild animals he has a certain wildness in him; he is still part of nature.

There is a similar story in Jesus’ life:

One morning he comes on the bank of Lake Galilee. The sun is rising and a fisherman has just thrown his net into the lake to catch fish. Jesus puts his hand on his shoulder; the fisherman looks back. For a moment there is just silence: the silence of the morning, the silence of the lake, the silence of Jesus. And of course the fisherman does not have a very chattering mind.

Before he can ask anything, Jesus says to him, “How long you are going to continue catching fish? Enough is enough! Come with me - I will teach you how to catch men.”

And there is no hesitation at all. The fisherman leaves the net in the lake; he does not even pull it out. Something has transpired. The special transmission has happened. He has looked into the eyes of Jesus; a deep yes has arisen in his being. Whatsoever he has said is so clear: “How long.?” Of course, how long I am going to catch fish? Is this all there is to life? - catching fish, selling fish, every day, year in, year out? Is this life? There must be something more in it.”

And he can see there is something more in it - this man seems to have attained it. The joy on his face, the serenity of his presence, the silence that has come with him like a shadow, the depth of his eyes, the fire of his being, have kindled something into the simple fisherman’s heart.

Without saying a word he follows Jesus. Jesus moves, he follows him.

This man became Jesus’ first disciple. His name was Andreas. Because he was the first to be called by Jesus, the very name Andreas has come to mean “the first one who was called by the master.” It was a rare gift to be called by the master and to be the first, but Andreas was worthy of it.

Just as they were going out of the village, a man came running and he told Andreas, “Where are you going? Your father is dead! Come back home!”

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