Posts Tagged ‘Sengai’

I’ve been talking with some friends recently about giving feedback, advice or even ‘admonishment’ to friends or strangers. The issue was how much really needs to be said, how harsh a comment the situation might call for, and how to tell the difference. I’m still not sure I can really tell the difference, but I do know that as a rule I’ll tend to err on the side of few words as possible, until it’s clear to me that more would be both needed and helpful!

I’ve got a mondo / zen story that illustrates my idea that sometimes, just making sure a situation is acknowledged can sometimes be enough:

There was this meditation master named Sengai, and as usual, his students were expected to keep a pretty solitary and contemplative life inside the temple walls. And, as usual, there was one student who just couldn’t stand sitting that still.

So several nights a week, this guy would sneak over the back wall and head into town for some forbidden fun. One of these nights, Sengai was inspecting the dormitory and found both the empty bed and the tall stool against the back wall. It didn’t take a zen master to figure out what was going on, so he moved the stool and stood in its place, just waiting.

It was well after midnight when the student snuck back to the temple and hoisted himself over the wall. He had already had his feet on Sengai’s head and was jumping down before he realized what was going on. He then stared at his master, speechless.

Sengai just quietly said, “It’s very chilly out this early in the morning. Be careful that you don’t catch a cold.” And that was the end of it. The student never snuck out again.

Yeah, it’s not always that simple. But among friends and family, sometimes just a hint will be enough to bring things back together. 🙂

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