Daily Zen: Is That So
The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors for living a pure life.
A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, her parents discovered she was pregnant.
This made her parents very angry. She would not confess who the man was. After much harassment, she 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 no longer keep up her lie. She revealed the truth to her parents. The actual father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market.
With urgency, the mother and father of the girl went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness. They apologized at length and asked to get the child back.
Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was, “Is that so?”
Hakuin was unfairly accused of being immoral and had to face the consequences of another's actions. He did so with dignity and without complaint. When he was vindicated, he met that situation with the same dignity and without indignation.
This koan speaks to me, as I have trouble dealing with unfair criticism in my life. I often feel as if unjust treatment is an attack on me, personally. The koan about Hakuin reminds me to consider: have I really been harmed?
When I imagine myself to be injured by some attack, I must consider: Did the attack preventing me from respecting myself? Did the attack destroy my relationships with close friends and family? Did the attack impair my ability to survive until tomorrow? My attacker may have intended injury. However, if I cannot answer any of the prior questions affirmatively, then I am no worse for the attack. If I am no worse, then I am uninjured. If there is no injury, what cause is there to be upset?