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A Zen Story

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I will Follow You My Whole Life

Gudo was the emperorís teacher of his time. Nevertheless, he used to travel done as a wandering mendicant. Once when he was on his way to Edo, the cultural and political center of the Shogunate, he approached a little village mad Takenaka.

It was evening and a heavy rain was falling. Gudo was thoroughly wet. His straw sandals were in pieces. He noticed four or five pairs of sandals in the window at a farmhouse near the village so he decided to buy some dry ones.

The woman who offered him the sandals, seeing how wet he was, invited him to remain in her home for the night. Gudo accepted her invitation readily thanking her. He entered the house and recited a Sootra before the family shrine. He then was introduced to the womanís mother, and to her children. Observing that the entire family was depressed Gudo asked her what was wrong with her family.

"My husband is a gambler and a drunkard," the housewife told him, "When he happens to win he drinks and becomes abusive. When he losses, he borrows money from others. Sometimes when becomes thoroughly drunk he does not come home at all. What can I do?"

"I will help him," said Gudo, "Here is some money. Get me a gallon of fine wine and something good to eat. Then you may retire. I will meditate before the shrine."

When the man of the house returned at about midnight, quite drunk; he bellowed - "Hey wife, I am home. Have you something to eat for me?"

"I have something for you," said Gudo. "I happened to be caught in the rain last night and your wife kindly offered me to remain here for the night. In return I have bought some wine and fish. You might as well have them."

The man was delighted. He drank the wine at once and laid himself down on the floor. Gudo sat in meditation beside him. In the morning when the husband awoke he had forgotten about the previous night.
"Who are you? And where do yon come from?" he asked Gudo, who was still meditating.
"I am Gudo of Kyoto and I am going to Edo." replied the Zen master.

The man was utterly ashamed. He apologized profusely to the teacher of his emperor. Gudo smiled.
"Everything in this life is impermanent," he explained to the husband, "Life is very brief. If you keep on gambling and drinking you will have no time left in your life to accomplish anything else, and you will cause your family to suffer too."

The perception of the husband awoke as if from a dream, "You are right," he declared. "How can I ever repay you for this wonderful teaching! Let me see you off and carry your things a little way."
"If you wish," assented Gudo.
The two started out. They talked a lot on several different topics. After they had gone three miles Gudo told him to return.
"Just another five miles," he begged Gudo. So they talked and continued on.
"You may return now," suggested Gudo.
"After another ten miles," the man replied.

"Return now, You are getting late." said Gudo, when the ten miles had passed.
"I won't go back now. I am going to follow you all the rest of my life," declared the man.

Modern Zen teachers in Japan spring from the lineage of a famous master who was the successor of Gudo. His name was Mu-nan, the man who never returned back.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 05/09/04     |      Contact:      |      Modified on 10/01/13