A Zen Story
Once upon a time, somewhere far away and a long time ago, there was a woman. She'd worked hard all her life and, while she had wanted to devote time to the spiritual quest, in her youth a marriage had been arranged. By the time our story begins she was a fairly well-off widow with an infant.

She decided to invest some of her money into spiritual work by supporting others in their practice, as a memorial to her late husband. She built a small but comfortable hut on her property and then invited a monk famous for his meditative prowess to take up residence as a hermit. She also provided food and drink and, when he was ill, arranged for a physician to visit. Otherwise she left him to his spiritual disciplines, which mainly consisted of silent meditation, sitting and witnessing the rising and falling of heart and mind. One that the woman herself had learned, and even tried to do as often as she could.

The days and weeks turned into years. And at some point she began to wonder about her investment. She was, after all, a woman of business. She decided the best way to check the matter out was to ask her daughter --- now in her full flowering of adolescence and who had been charged for several years with bringing food and drink to the monk --- this next time, after setting down the tray with his breakfast, to put her arms around the monk and to whisper into his ear, "How does this feel?"

The daughter, being a dutiful child, agreed. She took the tray, walked down the path to the hut, and set the tray on the small table outside the hut that she'd put many, many trays on many, many times before.Then she walked over to the doorway of the hut where the monk was sitting in his traditional cross-legged posture, meditating. She knelt beside him, threw her arms around him, and whispered into his ear, "How does this feel?"

He had been gazing at the ground a few feet in front of himself. Now slightly startled he raised his head, oh maybe an inch or two, looked into the middle distance, and replied,

    An old tree on a cold cliff;
    Midwinter --- no warmth.

The young woman returned to her mother and reported all. Hearing her daughter's report, the woman was incensed. She muttered, "sixteen years I supported that old fraud!" She grabbed a broom, stormed down to the hut, and beat the monk near senseless before driving him off. She then ordered the hut burned to the ground.

--- From If You Are Lucky,
Your Heart Will Break

James Ishmael Ford
©2012 Wisdom Publications
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