The beauty of a simple and righteous life

- through Fabrice Groult

Published on

It is not uncommon to see someone who begins to walk the long path of awakened people expecting too much from practice, cultivating daydreams and hopes of all kinds, imagining astonishing experiences and radical illuminations, believing that the path consists to live an extraordinary life, full of magic and near-miracles. But the real miracle is to draw water and carry wood liked to recall the layman Pang. Shun's story will certainly shed some light on this.

Child Shun was mischievous and playful, with stars in his eyes that sparkled with mischief and laughter. Son of a poor family, orphaned far too soon by a father whose face he barely remembered, his mother came to entrust him to the nearby temple, which at the time was a sure way of escaping misery. and to provide nourishment and some future to a male child. Above the wall accented with gray tiles, when he could escape the daily tasks, one could sometimes observe his sun-chiselled face and his very wide eyes catching the life of the outside, the silhouette of passers-by, the wrinkled and dirty coat of the dogs , having fun at the pace of itinerant merchants and tradesmen or dreaming in front of the other scruffy children screaming and rowdy.

After a few years of hard practice, duly dressed in his carefully arranged robes, he was seen at ceremonies or on the begging rounds of the monks, with his tall statue and his head which had the singular shape of an egg. However, he had not forgotten his poor mother and brought her as often as possible some fish bought against the coins of her begging. The villagers laughed and criticized him for feeding his mother good fish flesh, when as a priest he should not touch this meat or pass it through his hands. But he didn't care. His mother's joy was worth every spring and the bad words of people in the neighborhood when he carried her to the temple on his back did not affect him any more. He tied the old woman to him with a strong rope and, bent like a farmer under his burden, he pranced through forests and fields the long distance to be covered like a turtle happy to carry its shell. His mother, touched by so much grace and kindness, became a nun in her turn and settled in a small house adjoining the temple. So both of them lived peacefully while doing koto at night, because both loved the sound of this instrument as long and delicate as the lying body of a woman.

One can live like a fool or a wise man, a wise man or a madman, the way is open to everyone. Touching on the essential is a matter of sincerity.

One winter evening, a beautiful lady passing by heard the sounds and was enchanted by such harmony. She invited Shun and his mother to play in her home to brighten up the guests for a great evening, which they did with great success. The guests and the beautiful lady were delighted. Soon the whole village burst into laughter, for the beautiful lady was a prostitute and the silliness and stupidity of this mother and her simpleton monk were pitiful. Never departing from either his simplicity or his good nature, Shun felt neither bitterness nor regret.

Free yourself from the gaze of others

Came the day when in the autumn and its red maples, his mother died. At his funeral, Shun with a simple and simple mind, approached the beer before it was delivered to the flames, and knocking on the wood, he said: "Mother, your son has come back to see you", and counterfeiting his voice, he answered for his mother: "I am so happy to see you. Everyone was surprised and disconcerted by such naivety. Hadn't he realized she was dead. Poor Shun, was he losing his mind for good? Shun continued to live by begging and became a renowned master of the Soto school. People came to see him from afar without expecting anything other than a broad smile or a living lesson, without words or grand speeches. His simple company lit up the hearts of poor and rich alike. He lived in his simplicity until that summer night, when, before the starry firmament, he announced to his disciples his approaching end. He went to the altar on which was the portrait of his mother and that of his master, there he burned incense and recited the sutra of the heart. Returning to his bed, he wrote on a paper a poem of farewell to this world:

For fifty-six years I lived as best I could
Tracing an imperfect path through this world
Now the rain has stopped and the clouds have disappeared
In the blue of the sky the circle of the full moon takes shape.

He then sat silently on his couch, and as his assembled disciples intoned sutras, he breathed his last. His body did not sag. He just smiled.

One can live like a fool or a wise man, a wise man or a madman, the way is open to everyone. Touching on the essential is a matter of sincerity. The miracle is quite simply to live and the wonder of doing good around you without worrying about what people will say. Only those who know how not to live in the gaze of others are free.

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

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