Visiting Bankei

1001 Tales told by the Master

“The only miracle, the impossible miracle, is to be just ordinary.”

Bankei Zen master
Bankei Yōtaku 盤珪永琢 (1622-1693)

Our beloved Mster, Bankei was preaching quietly to his followers one day when his talking was interrupted by a priest from another sect.

This sect believed in the power of miracles and thought that salvation came from repeating holy words.

Bankei stopped talking and asked the priest what he wanted to say.

The priest boasted that the founder of his religion could stand on one bank of the river with a brush in his hand and write a holy name on a piece of paper, held by an assistant on the opposite bank of the river.

The priest asked: “What miracles can you do?”

Bankei replied: “Only one. When I am hungry I eat and when I am thirsty I drink.”

The only miracle, the impossible miracle, is to be just ordinary.

The longing of the mind is to be extraordinary. The ego thirsts and hungers for the recognition that you are somebody. Somebody achieves that dream through wealth, somebody else achieves that dream through power, politics, somebody else can achieve that dream through miracles, jugglery, but the dream remains the same: I cannot tolerate being nobody.

And this is a miracle – when you accept your nobodiness, when you are just as ordinary as anybody else, when you don’t ask for any recognition, when you can exist as if you are not existing. To be absent is the miracle.

This story is beautiful, one of the most beautiful Zen anecdotes, and Bankei is one of the superb masters. But Bankei was an ordinary man.

Once it happened that Bankei was working in his garden. Somebody came, a seeker, a man in search of a master, and he asked Bankei, “Gardener, where is the master?”

Bankei laughed and said, “Wait. Come from that door, inside you will find the master.”

So the man went round and came inside. He saw Bankei sitting on a throne, the same man who was the gardener outside. The seeker said, “Are you kidding? Get down from this throne. This is sacrilegious, you don’t pay any respect to the master.”

Bankei got down, sat on the ground, and said, “Now then, it is difficult. Now you will not find the master here because I am the master.”

It was difficult for that man to see that a great master could work in the garden, could be just ordinary. He left. He couldn’t believe that this man was the master; he missed.

Osho, A Bird on the Wing – Talks on Zen, Ch 6 (excerpt)

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

Comments are closed.