‘When my teacher, Soyen Shaku, was twenty-nine years old, he went to Ceylon, and stayed there for three years. On his way home, he took a steamer from Singapore to Siam. He was very poor, and barely had enough money to be a deck passenger. He was hungry, and suffered from thirst. Nobody knew the penniless monk. The tropical heat roasted his small body. The ship had to moor at the mouth of the Monam River on account of low tide. In the evening, the sky was filled with black clouds. There was no rain, no wind, just heavy threatening atmospheric pressure. The monk was bathed in his own sweat. Then came an army of mosquitoes. They attacked him from the front, from the back, and from both sides. In vain the poor monk tried to protect himself.
He knew how to master the situation. He took off his clothes and sat in the corner of the deck, were the ship’s lamp scarcely sent its light. He meant to feed the mosquitoes to their hearts’ content while he was sitting in meditation. It took him more than an hour to enter samadhi. In the beginning he heard the voices of the mosquitoes, but before long, his body was gone, all his senses were gone. Nothing in front and nothing in back. No more hunger, no more thirst. No heat, no cold. He was a truly dead man. Then a thunderstorm woke him, and a tropical shower washed him thoroughly. He heard the temple bell of Bangkok calling the dawn, and he smiled to himself, realizing that Buddha Shakyamuni and Bodhidharma had not cheated him at all. When he looked down he saw some wild berries scattered around him. Berries? No, they were mosquitoes, stuffed with his blood.
Fellow students, Zen never forces you to do a heroic deed, but it will come naturally to you when you find yourself in the middle of such a situation.’ (Nyogen Senzaki – Eloquent Silence)
‘”Hate is not conquered by hate: hate is conquered by love. This is a law eternal.” Surely this is the final and decisive thing that everybody cannot easily do. In human relations, we say “it’s a dog-eat-dog world.” Human beings have eternal discord and often begin to fight, even when they are working for peace. This is not an easy matter.
For instance, a mosquito alights on my body and starts to suck my blood. Do I watch it silently saying, “Hate is not conquered by hate: hate is conquered by love. This is a law eternal”? I am not such a stupid person. I will immediately squash it.
This is the reality of my self. And yet, even though I am such a person, is it certain that I will always behave in the same way? I don’t think so. It is not necessarily certain. For example, when I determine to do something for the sake of all living beings, I might even throw my body away. We cannot say it is impossible. This depends on the depth of my own heart for all living beings at the time.’ (Kosho Uchiyama – Genjo Koan, Three Commentaries)
So what would you do? Can you say?