Master Ryokan’s Way

“Ryokan sometimes accepted invitations from his supporters to stay for meals or overnight. Kera reflects:

Ryokan stayed with us for a couple of days. A peaceful atmosphere filled our house, and everyone became harmonious. This atmosphere remained for some days even after he left. As soon as I started talking with him, I realized that my heart had become pure. He did not explain Zen or other Buddhist scriptures, nor did he encourage wholesome actions. He would burn firewood in the kitchen or sit in meditation in our living room. He did not talk about literature or ethics. He was indescribably relaxed. He taught others only by his presence.”

From a new book by by Kaz Tanahashi called “Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan. Ryokan, a Japanese Zen master,  lived from 1756-1831.

Shinshu’s comment:

When I read this excerpt from the book, I though how wonderful it is to just live our understanding without needing to prove anything to anyone about what we know. Neither does he feel the need to tell others anything about his opinions or understanding. He helped in the kitchen by stoking the wood stove, he meditated quietly without making a fuss. He did not try to impress anyone with his understanding of literature nor did he spout off about ethics. He just appeared as himself totally relaxed. Although it is not explicitly said, he must have also had a generous heart toward his hosts. If he had not, they would not have felt peace and Kera (who relates the story) would not have felt a pure heart. This is such a lesson for all of us about how to be skillfully present and integrated with life as it is. Nothing special and nothing extra. This is so difficult to do, yet Ryokan’s relaxed generous presence brought ease in the midst of the simplest of everyday activities.

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