3. Is That So?
The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a
A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived
near him. Suddenly, without any warning her parents discovered she
was with child.
This made her parents angry. She would not confess who the man was,
but after much harassment at last named Hakuin. In great anger the
parents went to the master. 'Is that so?' was all he would say.
After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he
had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very
good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and
everything else the little one needed.
A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her
parents the truth - that the real father of the child was a young
man who worked in the fish market.
The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his
forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back
again. Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was,
'Is that so?'
The master Bankei’s talks were attended not only by Zen students but
by persons of all ranks and sects. He never quoted sutras nor
indulged in scholastic dissertations. Instead his words were spoken
directly from his heart to the harts of his listeners.
His large audiences angered a priest of the Nichiren sect because
the adherents had left to hear about Zen. The self centered Nichiren
priest came to the temple determined to debate with Bankei.
'Hey, Zen teacher,’ he called out. 'Wait a minute. Whoever respects
you will obey what you say, but a man like myself does not respect
you. Can you make me obey yon?'
‘Come up beside me and I will show you,' said Bankei.
Proudly the priest pushed his way through the crowd to the teacher.
Bankei smiled. 'Come over to my left side.'
The priest obeyed.
‘No,’ said Bankei, 'we may talk better if you are on the right side.
Step over here.’ The priest proudly stepped over to the right.
'You see,' observed Bankei, 'you are obeying me and I think you are
a very gentle person. Now sit down and listen.'