A Japanese Zen story about responding to whatever happens in the present moment with acceptance, or about observing troubling emotions with kindness. Like all of these stories it functions on a symbolic level, challenging us to open up to new ways of living when faced with surprises and disruptive situations:
The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbours in the village as one who lived a pure life. Then a beautiful girl in the village became pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who was the father. At first resistant to confess, the anxious girl finally pointed to Hakuin, whom everyone revered for his pure life. When the outraged parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter’s accusation, he simply replied “Is that so”
When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who now was viewed as a outcast by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child. It was now his responsibility. He said simply “I see” and calmly accepted the child.
For many months he took very good care of the child until the girl 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 immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With profuse apologies they explained what had happened. “Is that so” Hakuin said as he handed them the child.
Hakuin Ekaku, 1686 – 1769, was one of the most influential figures in the history of Zen.
The Japanese, Sōdesu ka, translated normally as “Is that so” can also be rendered as “I see”