|101 Zen Stories aka Zen Flesh, Zen Bones|
Shoun said he lived the best that he could. He couldn't live in the monastery, he bought fish for his mother, he played music and he visited a woman of the streets. He didn't follow the rules that the other monks followed.
But he was doing what was required in each situation. He wasn't embarrased about visiting a woman of the streets. He was a man of much personal integrity.
It seems easier to defend one's actions when those actions are according to some law. But that is not what Shoun did. He was true to his own heart and did what the moment demanded.
At the end of his life, all was perfect. “The rain had ended, the clouds were clearing, and the blue sky had a full moon.”
But Shoun was perfect in another sense. He had responded to each challenge in his life with a open hand and gave to it what was demanded. He went against the rules because this allowed him to give what was needed of him.
I have a sister who, like Shoun, is not seduced by authority. She broke most of the rules in the book, and probably some laws along the way. But she was always there for her friends, and now is a helpful and loving psychoanalyst. She shunned most if not all the good advice that her parents were so willing to give to her.
The other day I compared myself to my ideal self. I came out with a flunking grade. I wonder if the ideal self was what one would look like if they followed the rules, and if what I was now was closer to Shoan's statement, “I did what I could.”
How do we navigate the rules of society and the rules of our institutions and still walk proud? What was it in Shoun and my sister that allowed them, as they heard “the beat of a different drummer” to walk so confidently down the street. “Without shame,” my sister would add.
*101 Zen Stories is a 1919 compilation of Zen koans including 19th and early 20th century anecdotes compiled by Nyogen Senzaki, and a translation of Shasekishū, written in the 13th century by Japanese Zen master Mujū (無住) (literally, "non-dweller"). The book was reprinted by Paul Reps as part of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. Well-known koans in the collection include “A Cup of Tea” (1), “The Sound of One Hand” (21), “No Water, No Moon” (29), and “Everything is Best” (31). (From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/101_Zen_Stories.