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Shoun and His Mother

Written By Unknown on Friday, March 23, 2012 | 2:26 PM

Shoun's father had passed away while he was still a student of Soto Zen, leaving him to care for his elderly mother, which he continued to do after he became a teacher.
Shoun always took his mother with him when he went to the meditation hall. When he visited monasteries, he could not live with the monks, since his mother accompanied him, so he built a small house and looked after her there. To make a living he copied Buddhist verses and sutras, and in this way earned enough for food.
People would laugh at Shoun whenever he bought fish for his mother, as monks are not supposed to eat fish. Shoun was not bothered by this, however, his mother was hurt to see people mocking her son. Eventually, she told Shoun: "I have decided to become a nun and to be vegetarian as well." She did just that, and Shoun and his mother studied together.
Shoun was a music lover and was a master harp player. His mother played too, so on nights lit by the full-moon they played together.
One evening, a young damsel was passing by Shoun's house and heard their music. Profoundly affected by the harp music, she invited Shoun to her house to play the next evening. Shoun accepted the invitation. He met the young woman a few days later on the street and gave thanks for her hospitality. People laughed at Shoun, as he had paid a visit to the house of a lady of the streets.
The day came when Shoun left to give a lecture at a distant temple. When he returned a few months later, he found out his mother had died. Nobody had known where he was to contact him, so the funeral had begun without him.
Shoun walked up to the coffin and knocked with his staff, saying: "Mother, your son has returned."
He then answered on behalf of his mother, "I am happy to see you returned, my son."
Shoun replied, "Yes, I am glad too, mother." He then announced to the people around him: "This funeral ceremony has finished. You can bury the body."
When Shoun himself got old, he knew his passing was drawing near. He asked his students to gather round him the next morning, and told them he would pass away at noon. Offering incense to a picture of his mother and his Zen teacher, Shoun wrote this poem:
For fifty-six years I lived as best I could,Making my way in this world.
Now the rain has ended, the clouds are clearing,
The blue sky has a full moon.
The students assembled around him, chanting a sutra, and their teacher passed away during the recital.


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