The Moon Cannot Be Stolen
A Zen Master lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at
the foot of a mountain. One evening, while he was away, a thief sneaked into the hut only to
find there was nothing in it to steal. The Zen Master returned and found him. "You have come a long way to visit
me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty handed.
Please take my clothes as a gift."
The thief was bewildered, but he took the clothes and ran away.
The Master sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, " I wish
I could give him this beautiful moon."
People's reactions to this story:
"First, be grateful to everyone: perhaps because the Master was before
distracted by his material belongings, he never noticed the beauty around
him. The thief in fact gave to the Master through his theft and maybe lost
the sight of the Moon. Also, the beauty of nature is available to all - free and forever, and we
forget this when we get caught up in the dazzle of our commercial society. "
"The Zen master was not attached to any material possessions. He could even give away his clothes without thinking twice. What he would have liked to give the thief was not anything material, but
his appreciation of nature or enlightenment."
"The thief is poor because he does not understand what is of value in this
life and what is not. The Zen Master is wealthy because he is content.
The moon, I think, is a symbol of that contentment and peace."
"This reminds me of the vicar in Les Miserables
who tells the thief that giving him what the thief has tried to steal means that
the thief now belongs to God. The clothing is only a thing, which means
nothing to the Zen master, so he removes the dishonor of the theif's act by
giving him something. I think the moon represents the master's internal
spiriual connection, which is something he cannot give away; it is there for all
who seek it. The Zen master realizes that he cannot just give spirituality away,
as the vicar attempted in Les Miserables. In Judaism, there is the evil
impulse and the good impulse in all men, and resisting the evil impulse
requires active participation in seeking through prayer and study, so that the
difference between good and evil impulses becomes obvious. The Zen Master
was acting with loving kindness, which is an element of all major religions
(unfortunately, it is not always practiced)."
"Material things mean nothing.... that is not wisdom that can be stolen, nor can it be easily given."
"Its a nice story. My interpretations are thus: (1) Maybe the Zen master wants to give the moon since if the thief had the
moon, he could make use of it while he was at job in night. So it would
imply that we should try to give to other people things after a thought of
what may be useful for them, and not just for sake of giving, unless (as in
thi case) we do not have a choince or chance, (2) Second interpretation could be that when you give, you should give with
all your heart, the best of what you can. the moon in this case,
(3) Maybe the Zen master is talking of enlightening the thief, and the giving
of moon signifies the bringing of light into his black nights... maybe you choose :))
"The master gives unto the thief the most that he can give materially. The one
thing he can not give to the thief is that which he needs most; his own true
nature. The moon represents our own true nature. The master's gesture
represents his attitude towards those not-enlightened. He does not look down
on them, he does not hate enemies; he is beyond animosity brought from
attachments and materialism. The gesture is also an example of this."
"Material things are nice but fleeting, the understanding of matrial
things is forever."
"The Master and the thief walked beneath the same moon but the thief
could not know the peace that the master held inside him. So their
moons were, in fact, different. He was only giving to the poor."
"I look at this story in the way that the Zen Master acknowledges that the
thief came into to steal something, the Zen Master is enlightened in not
only can he forgive the thief for breaking in and invading his personal
space but does a greater act by giving him his cloth. Like the feeling of
fullfilment that the Zen Master gets from the moon, there is nothing like
the emotional fullfilment of acts of kindness to another and having the
strenth to forgive others for wrongs done against you."
"Most of these stories depict a wiser master who knows what is truly important.
Here, the master feels sorry for the thief, it is painful to the master that
the thief cannot appreciate what is freely provided by all things. Painful
enough for the master to give the poor soul his clothes."
"This is a story not of the power of posession, but the power to posses.
The zen master has the ability to give away something to one who does
not have the ability to acquire what he has. If the zen master could
acquire the moon to give it away it would further his power to posses.
This would connote a hierarchy distinguishing who has the ability to
posses, but if the zen master could give the moon away then his power to
posses would dissolve any hierarchy. Ultimately the power to posses is
the downfall of humankind because it lends to the false belief that
there is power in possession."
"The zen master feels sorry for the thief whose contentment lies only in
material possessions and not in appreciating priceless possesions he
already has ... like the moon."
sitting and watching the moon the zen master came to realize something
about himself, that He did what gave him most happiness- giving the
thief something that gave HIM happiness.So he mused, I wish I could give
him the moon, for that which gives me so much happiness will surely give
me more happiness when i give it to the one who craves others'
"The zen master sits naked enjoying life in the moonlight; he has no concern for tomorrow when the sun might burn his skin or when other people might be nonplussed by his nakedness. Does he have no concern for self because he has no self. He seemed to be concerned for the thief's self. Has he perhaps 'one-upped' the thief with his superior magnanimity? Why does he assume that the thief cannot enjoy the moon? Is his zen correct-attitude zen or is it truly no mind?"
"The zen master has nothing and yet there is nothing he does not have."
"The zen master has found a way of life that keeps him content, it is a
simple life but he is happy. There are people who are still looking. The
zen master wishes he could pass on this enlightenment that he has found to
others. On a personal note - I am jealous of the zen master and am still trying to
find my way of life."
|| Cliffhanger || Nature's Beauty || Present Moment ||
John Suler, Ph.D. © 1997 All rights reserved.