Is That So?



A beautiful girl in the village was pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who was the father. At first resistant to confess, the anxious and embarrassed girl finally pointed to Hakuin, the Zen master whom everyone previously revered for living such a pure life. When the outraged parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter's accusation, he simply replied "Is that so?"

When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who now was viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. "Is that so?" Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.

For many months he took very good care of the child until the daughter could no longer withstand the lie she had told. She confessed that the real father was a young man in the village whom she had tried to protect. The parents immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With profuse apologies they explained what had happened. "Is that so?" Hakuin said as he handed them the child.


People's reactions to this story:
"We are free to tell the mountain that it is too high, the road that it winds too much and the ocean that it is too wet."

"The master taught the village that perception is a relative phenomenon and that reality simply is what it is despite how people label it."

"Public criticism is a means for those who do not know themselves well. But for well self-understanding people, it means nothing."

My tickling is piqued by the choosing of ZenMasterNames, yes. I bet "Iza tsohaw qu-een" is some kind of mystic chant that the author wanted readers to mutter over and over again as they read this koan.

"We all have responsibilities. sometimes other create them for us. We then have a choice to accept these responsibilities or fight them. The Zen master sees the greater good in accepting responsibilities that he did not ask for or plan on."

That girl is a lying slut.

Hakuin must have been aware of his perceived status in the community. He accepted his charge by a member of the community unencumbered. With compassion he completed the mission.

No matter. That child was as we all once were. The only difference is in being. Hakuin excepted anothers lie for truth as proof of his virtue of ethics and morality.

"To be in harmony with the world."

The monks calmness is admirable, but the idea that one should not speak the truth when confronted with a lie is potentially very harmful. Perhaps the monk did not recognize his reputation among the people or the impact it would have on them, because if the daughter never admited to lying about who the childs true father was, she may have created a spirit of cynicism among the people. That even the most 'spiritual' types of people are not really so, but are simply putting on an act is what alot of people would have taken from this situation if the truth never arose. People shouldn't be dependent on the oppinions of others for their happiness, but they should also recognize the impact that their life will make on others and therefore not permit calumny to prevail.

is that so?

So what? So what if he was or wasn't the father. Details can not overshadow what is right or wrong. Everyone allowed themselves to be bothered by truly trivial details, and allowed these trivial details to act as ethical guiedelines for action.

questions lead to the truth. Have you ever heard the following in a conversation "Well why didn't you tell me?! 'Because you didn't ask.' "? It is the same here. Nobody asked Hakuin if he was the father, nobody asked if he would care for the child, and nobody asked for it back. We must learn to ask the right questions of the world around us, and to request, not demand all the time.

People will act on their own convictions if there is no response.

Just because everyone "knows" something to be true does not mean that it is.

People saying something does not make it true...Knowing yourself is the most importent thing.

No matter what your reputation is, no matter how much your virtue is praised, because it depends on the opinions of others, it does not reflect the Real You.

I like Richard Bach's Messiah's Handbook from "Illusions": Live, never to be ashamed, if what you do or say is published around the world. Even is what is published is not true.

Even a large stone cannot stop the river. Its resistance marks its demise.

Perhaps it is too obvious that "Is that so?" is both a passive challenge to the accusers and an invitation to look more deeply into the matter -- both of which were repeatedly declined. The Hakuin wisely declines to force the issue, accepting minor injustice while avoiding greater disharmony.

The master has achieved complete acceptance of every person, situation and emotion. He has no fear of being unjustly labeled. He receives the child and gives up the child with the same peace of mind. He is both a detached observer and a complete participant.

The Zen master taught that there is no difference between truth and lie, because all happenings in life will be experienced through the filter of our sense-organs. That is why he reacted equally to both, the accusation and the apology. Another example that children born out of wedlock are foistered onto others who must then pay for the bundle of joy. No mention is stated of the devestating effects of terminating a baby's initial bonding with a caretaker. I'll bet the monk never recieved a Father's Day card.

When I read this story for the first time I thought that the only words that Hakuin knew were "is that so?". I then thought that couldn't be right so I read it again. Now I just don't know what to think.

So what?

In asking the question "is that so?" perhaps the Zen master was trying to tip the people about truth. It is not subjective. It IS. He may not have believed their apology at the end as true as he did not believe their accusations as true. Their judgement of him was not relevant (to him.) The truth IS the truth and is what matters.

"You can't tell the whole story by reading the front page"

Truth is what you make it. In a Society Truth is what most of the people think it is -- or is it ?

"Truth? What is it?"


|| Maybe || The Gift of Insults || Egotism ||



John Suler, Ph.D. 1997 All rights reserved.