Sunday, December 15, 2013

Not Zen 89: Silent Lecture

An old man had been studying at his local temple for decades. For the last few years, he had remained silent. He spoke to no one, not even to the masters, and the head of the temple permitted his behavior even though the man was not a member of the clergy, only a visitor, and had taken no vow of silence. In time, no one thought it was unusual or rude.

The old man swept the floors in every room. He did it every evening, sometimes in the mornings or after large gatherings. He had another job outside of the temple and monastery.  Here he was a volunteer. He came and went as he pleased.

One day, a new student at the temple wandered into his dormitory. He watched the sweeper for an hour or so. Every so often, the new student looked to his fellow students to see if they were watching. They weren't.

The next day, the student came back to his room while the silent fellow was sorting the trash. He sat next to the old man and helped.

"That was a good lesson you gave yesterday," he said. "Why doesn't the head of the temple make all of students attend?"

This made the old man think for a while. He had not been silent in the rest of his life, only during his visits to the temple.

"There would be no point in that order," he replied. "I have been setting the same example for three years. You're the first one to remark on it besides the master."

"He provides a silent sermon through you."

“There are such sermons everywhere you look.”

“Even outside the temple?”

The old man returned to his task sorting the trash.

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