This is our truth, tell us yours
A wise friend occasionally glances at my twitter feed, we share similar views on the world and he finds the people I follow of interest. I suggested, not for the first time, that he join twitter. His reply reminded me why I consider him wise. He pointed out that most of the fights he had been in had been caused by the belief he was in the right, the egotistical belief that he had to prove this, with words or fists.
My friend is a Buddhist, a the core of Buddhism is letting go of the idea of the ego. It is not just stepping back from the fight but realising that the fight is unimportant. This might sound nihilistic or like giving up, and indeed at times Buddhism has been represented as a belief in nothing. One of my favourite Zen koans comes to mind here.
The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbours as one living a pure life.
A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she had a 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 parent 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 neighbours and everything else he needed.
A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth – 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 forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back.
Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: “Is that so?”
Hakuin could have argued, fought for what he believed was true, but that would have been driven by his ego, by his need to be seen as respectable by others, he did not. This does not mean he did not do what is right, to care for the child. Refusing to battle for our ideas to be accepted takes a strength that isn’t always recognized. Doing the right thing is a million miles away from trying to convince others of what the right thing is, especially when the person we are most usually trying to convince is ourselves.