Sunday, March 10, 2013

Not Zen 49: Practice of Affection

A young man in a small town became engaged to an older woman. Everyone thought it would be an excellent match. But on the eve of their marriage, he called off the ceremony. Without consulting anyone, not even his closest friends, he left his home town and travelled to the nearest monastery.

His fiance knew that this had been something he'd thought about doing for several years, so she had an easy time tracking him. However, when she went to visit her lover, the monks would not allow her in.

She climbed the hill next to the compound and spotted her man meditating in the eastern courtyard. She hiked to the east wall. With the help of a pear tree, she scaled the wall and, unhurt by the drop on the other side, she strode to confront her lover.

His head was shaved and he wore a saffron robe. He seemed unsurprised by her presence. He did not call for the other monks. She sat and adopted a pose of meditation similar to his.

"Are you at peace?" she asked after a while.

"I think I am coming to inner peace, yes," he replied.

"Did we have happiness at home? I thought we did, the both of us."

"We did. Very much. But what is worldly happiness compared to eternal happiness?"

"It's nothing, of course. And what about love?"

"What about it? What is love compared to enlightenment?"

"They're teaching you nothing," she said sternly. "What is enlightenment without love? Aren't they joined? Shouldn't you know that?"

The young man had no reply. The next day, he asked his teacher this question about love and enlightenment. When he was not satisfied with the answer, he returned to his home town. He made apologies to his friends. Then he married his teacher, the woman who had followed him to the temple.

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