Determining to follow Zen

Dear brothers and sisters,

In 101 Zen Stories – Zen Master Nyogen Senzaki compiled, anh Hoành translated and annotated, there are 2 Zen masters having an impressive Zen path. They are Munan in Story 2 – Finding a diamond on a muddy road, and Ryonen in Story 50 – Ryonen’s clear realization.

Munan was a gambler and a drunkard. He didn’t take care of his wife, children and mother. By chance, Zen master Gudo helped Munan. Gudo just told Munan a few words and Munan followed Gudo all the rest of Munan’s life.

Ryonen was born into a powerful family. She was talented, beautiful and wise. Over 17 years old, Ryonen desired to study Zen. Her relatives disagreed, so they forced Ryonen to marry and have 3 children. Before she was 25 she finished the wishes of her relatives, so she shaved her head. However, Ryonen was still not allowed to become a nun until she ruined her own beauty with a hot iron pressed to her face to make a huge scar.

What do Munan and Ryonen have in common?

Determination to follow Zen.

Both Munan and Ryonen didn’t worry about questions such as:

  • My children are too young, my mom and dad are too old, my wife/ husband loves me and she/ he needs me. How can I follow Zen?
  • If I follow Zen now, who will take care of my children, my mom and dad, my wife/ husband?
  • If I follow Zen now, what will my children eat? What will my mom and dad drink? What will my wife/ husband wear?
  • If I follow Zen now, will I be enlightened in this life?
  • If I’m not enlightened in this life, will my whole life following Zen be meaningless?…

Both Munan and Ryonen determined to follow Zen, so those questions didn’t bother them.

Both Munan and Ryonen perhaps knew that: Because they loved their families, they determined to follow Zen; and because they knew that true happiness was stillness, they determined to follow stillness so that they could bring true happiness to the people they loved.

An act of their leaving home to study Zen could be understood as a symbolic act that: both Munan and Ryonen focused on Zen, their minds focused on stillness, they didn’t let their minds be distracted by anything other than Zen.

Munan and Ryonen had to determine to follow Zen, then they became to Zen masters. Moreover, “Modern Zen teachers in Japan spring from the lineage of a famous master who was the successor of Gudo. His name was Munan, the man who never turned back.”

Determination is the key to success.

Thanks to the determination of our forefathers in defeating the invaders, from China to France and U.S., we have peace today. Had our forefathers not determined to win, would we have had peace now?

Do you determine to follow Zen?

Have a nice day.

Phạm Thu Hương

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