I see…

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 Ekaku1686 – 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”

No permanence

Still in China. This time an even earlier thinker. We could save ourselves a lot of hassle if we truly lived this:

We cling to our own point of view, as if everything depended on it.

Yet our views have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.

Chuang Tzu, Chinese Philosopher,  4th century 

A new day, a new week

We have a tendency to live out of the past and to limit different experiences and the people we encounter today to what we expect of them. In this way we lose any sense of wonder or newness

The day you teach the child the name of the bird,

the child will never see that bird again.


Abba Poemen said about Abba Pior that every single day he made a fresh beginning.

Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Sunday Quote: Lie low

This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes

Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning

John O’Donohue, from To Bless the Space Between Us

Guiding star

Today is Candlemas, so I could post about light and darkness, as the days begin to noticeably lengthen in the Northern Hemisphere and hope returns. But instead, sticking with an idea in yesterdays post, different tradition:

Every blade of grass

has a constellation in the heavens

that strikes it and says, ‘Grow! Grow!’

The Talmud