“Turn each opportunity of life into meditation. Do it fully aware, alert, watchful, witnessing,” says Osho while commenting on Zen master Ikkyu’s question. From our series 1001 Tales, compiled by Shanti.
A disciple had come to see Ikkyu, his master. The disciple had been practicing for some time. It was raining and as he went in, he left his shoes and umbrella outside. After he paid his respects, the master asked him on which side of his shoes he had left his umbrella.
Now, what kind of a question…? You don’t expect masters to ask such nonsense questions – you expect them to ask about God, about kundalini rising, chakras opening, lights happening in your head. You ask about such great things – occult, esoteric.
But Ikkyu asked a very ordinary question. No Christian saint would have asked it, no Jain monk would have asked it, no Hindu swami would have asked it. It can be done only by one who is really with the Buddha, in the Buddha – who is really a Buddha.
The master asked him on which side of his shoes he had left his umbrella. Now, what do shoes and umbrellas have to do with spirituality?
If the same question was asked of you, you would have felt annoyed. You would have felt that this man is no master at all. What kind of question is this? What philosophy can there be in it?
But there is something immensely valuable in it. Had he asked about God, about your kundalini and chakras, that would have been nonsense, utterly meaningless. But this has meaning.
The disciple could not remember – who bothers where you have put your shoes and on which side you have put your umbrella, to the right or to the left? Who bothers? Who pays so much attention to umbrellas? Who thinks of shoes. Who is so careful?
But that was enough – the disciple was refused. Ikkyu said, “Then go and meditate for seven years more.”
“Seven years?” the disciple said, “just for this small fault?”
Ikkyu said, “This is not a small fault. Faults are not small or big – you are just not yet living meditatively, that’s all. Go back, meditate for seven years more and come again.”
This is the essential message of Buddhism: be careful, careful of everything. And don’t make any distinction between things, that this is trivia and that is very very spiritual. Pay attention, be careful and everything becomes spiritual.
Quote from Osho, Take It Easy – Talks on Zen Buddhism, Vol 2, Ch
Ikkyū Sōjun, 1394–1481) was an eccentric, iconoclastic Japanese Zen Buddhist monk and poet. He had a great impact on the infusion of Japanese art and literature with Zen attitudes and ideals.