Ryōkan forgot to get food

1001 Tales

“Each moment is so full of blessings, each moment is such an eternity of joy, each moment is such a dance of beauty,” concludes Osho.

Just the other night I saw a small anecdote about a great Zen master, Ryōkan. He used to live in the mountains in a small hut.

Ryokan's mountain hut

Another Zen master was staying with him. The whole day passed, talking about poetry, painting, sculpture, music, and they both forgot about food.

He had to go to beg for his food in the town. By the evening, he became aware. He said, “I am sorry – to me it is not much, it is my usual habit. Sometimes I forget. But I am keeping you hungry, so I will go immediately and find something before the sun sets.”

So he rushed down the mountain and his friend waited and waited and waited for three hours. No sign… and he was feeling so hungry that he came out of the house – what has happened? Has there been some accident?

And he could not believe his eyes: Ryōkan was sitting outside the house under a tree, with closed eyes, a great grace on his face, murmuring – almost in a whisper – new haikus, new poetries.

The guest went there, shook him and asked him, “What happened about the food?”

Ryōkan said, “My god! When I saw the sun setting, it was so beautiful that I could not move away from this tree. From this tree, the sunset is a golden experience. I had stopped only for a moment, but the sunset and its beauty impressed me so much that I forgot all about food and all about you! But here are a few beautiful haikus…”

The guest said, “But haikus won’t help. I cannot sleep with such hunger.”

Ryōkan said, “Wait – I will go. Although it is late, I may find something.”

And he rushed down from the hill towards the town.

The whole night, the guest was tossing and turning, and coming out again and again to see what had happened to Ryōkan.

In the early morning, when the sun was rising, the guest went out again – he had not slept a single wink. Ryōkan was still sitting under the same tree – smiling and swaying and murmuring.

The guest said, “Ryōkan, what about food?”

Ryōkan said, “My god! When I reached the bottom of the hill, people were asleep and it was a full moon night. It was so beautiful, you would not believe. I have seen full moon nights before, but never anything comparable to this. So just to enjoy it a little, I sat under a tree – and I don’t know when the night passed, but I have found some beautiful haikus…

“And living in this glory of the full moon… you can understand me, and forgive me. I forgot all about food. In fact, I was wondering, when the sun started rising – what am I doing here? So I returned to my tree, from where sunset, sunrise, both have such a divine splendor.”

The guest said, “You will kill me! I am going.”

Ryōkan said, “But at least listen to my few haikus. They are not mine, truly. Some are given by the full moon, some are given by the rising sun, some are given by the birds singing in the trees. And life has been so rich and I was so nourished by it that even the idea of food never crossed my mind.”

The guest left. He said, “You seem to be a madman!”

Each moment is so full of blessings, each moment is such an eternity of joy, each moment is such a dance of beauty.

Osho, The Hidden Splendor, Ch 10, Q 4

Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

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