Zen stories are wonderful stories with deep insight. Every individual understands the story in one’s own way. Only the masters have the true understanding of the zen stories. Here i would write down what my mind understands through this story.
Readers are welcomed to write their own understanding in the comments.
The master Bankei’s talks were attended not only by Zen students but by persons of all ranks and sects. He never quoted sutras nor indulged in scholastic dissertations. Instead, his words were spoken directly from his heart to the hearts of his listeners.
The master Bandei’s talks were not just attended by the students of Zen. This is the quality of the true Zen master. A master is like a huge magnet attracting so many people from all sects and worldly ranks. That is that something great they carry, that makes it irresistible for people. It is not the words that attract them, but their presence. Same talk could be given by any other person with exactly same words and punctuations, but that won’t carry the essential and would not be a center of attraction. Few people engaged in mind gymnastic might go there.
He never quoted, Sutras. A true enlightened master does not need to quote any Sutra or any other words. He does not rely on borrowed words. What comes out, comes out of direct perception. He does not require any other source than himself for the wisdom. No scholastic dissertations are required for him. It is not reading and acquiring information and dishing out again. The words are spoken from the powerful source of heart and thus it has capacity to pierce the heart and soul of the listeners. The words falling from their mouths carry a special power which falls like seeds in the heart of the listeners and germinates. Same set of words from weak at souls would not carry any weight and the listeners would soon forget them and carry on with their daily routine cores, never pondering on what has been said, but when those words from Masters pierce their hearts, they can’t but ponder on what has been said and proceed towards freedom.
The words germinates in the heart of the listener and the listener then feels grateful for attending a Master’s talk.
His large audiences angered a priest of the Nichiren sect because the adherents had left to hear about Zen. The self-centered Nichiren priest came to the temple, determined to debate with Bankei.
The Master seldom worries or craves about a large audience. What he is concerned is about the freedom and well being of the people and all living beings. On the other hand the priests and scholars are too attached with the the largeness of the audience. They feel large if large audience attends them. They are at the mercy of the audience. When the priest of Nichiren sect saw that his audience was attracted by the Master, Anger and jealousy took over him. The priest who should be responsible to free his audience from negative feelings like anger and jealousy falls victim of the same. A true priest concerned with the benefit of his audience would have felt great joy, on seeing his audience attracted to the true source. The master does not consider any number of people attending as mere audience. He communicates with each being one on one. Each one’s heart and soul is penetrated individually according to one’s conditioning of mind or sanskaras. The priest must scholarly and with crafted with intelligence of information and logic. Hence he decided to debate with the Master, gain victory over him and hence gain the large audience, to make himself greater again.
“Hey, Zen teacher!” he called out. “Wait a minute. Whoever respects you will obey what you say, but a man like myself does not respect you. Can you make me obey you?”
He goes to the Master and challenges him. The challenge comes from his self centered mind. He says whoever respects you. The Master is not at for gaining respect, he does not need it. What he wants is the freedom, love and compassion to develop from those attracted towards him. A scholar or a priest is too much after respect. A slave of people’s opinion. If people respects them they feel great else their mind and hearts are at great turmoil. Master’s peace and strength of mind and heart is least affected by any disrespect shown to them. Now here was a challenge thrown with disrespect shown towards the master.
“Come up beside me and I will show you,” said Bankei.
The master does not show any reaction towards the harsh challenge thrown at him, by a proud priest in presence of so many listeners. He remains cool, that is the strength that a master carries.
Proudly the priest pushed his way through the crowd to the teacher.
The priest blinded by his arrogance and the ambition to win over the Master’s audience pushes his way from the crowd. The ambition to get back his lost prestige, makes him push from the crowd. So many individuals is crowd for him. No respect or love for them flows through him, hence the pushing. Pushing his way through the mere crowd for his glory.
Bankei smiled. “Come over to my left side.”
The Master smiles at him. Looking at the arrogance and disrespect shown towards him and individuals connected with him does not break the strength and silence and smile of His heart. And very softly he ask him to come over to his left side.
The priest obeyed.
The priest obeyed but was not at all aware of it. His mind was crowded with the thoughts and feelings of defeating the Master. To show to people and himself that he did not obey the master and was not a part of herd.
“No,” said Bankei, “we may talk better if you are on the right side. Step over here.”
So naturally and coolly the masters asks him to step over on the other side where he was sitting. The master knew what he was doing and the proud priest totally unaware and blinded with pride was following what master asked him to do.
The priest proudly stepped over to the right.
“You see,” observed Bankei, “you are obeying me and I think you are a very gentle person. Now sit down and listen.”
The master gestures did not show that any challenge was faced. Unperturbed he points to the priest that he had been obeying him. There was no need of scholarly talks. Regardless of all the pride and arrogance shown by the priest, Master points him out the gentle quality in him that obeyed.
Since the title of the story is obedience the mind ponders a little more on the obedience
– Obedience brought about by love, gentleness and compassion is far better than Obedience brought about by harshness, ambition and glorying the self centered self
– There no way out of Obedience either obey the self burning qualities like anger, jealousy and greed or obey the love, compassion and togetherness.