CASE #49:    Myōe Saves a Bee

Once when Myōe was meditating in the main hall, he whispered to his attendant that a bee had just fallen into a pail of water in the washroom and would surely drown if the monk didn’t rush to save it. The attendant hurried to the far end of the monastery and was shocked to find a bee there struggling for its life, just as Myōe had said.

    Sometimes called the Saint Francis of Buddhism, the Japanese Shingon monk Myōe (1173-1232) was known for his strict adherence to moral principles—especially the admonition to value and protect all life. Myōe is famous for keeping a detailed journal of his dreams over a period of thirty years. In one, two wolves approached him and began to devour his body. “This is just what I wanted,” Myōe said, and offered his body to them. But when the wolves had finished eating, he was still alive and unharmed. Myōe interpreted this as a teaching on the fundamental oneness of all life.

Myōe is a big bumblebee sitting on a cushion in the meditation hall. Meanwhile, a monk in another part of the monastery has taken a dunk in the drink.

The poor attendant—he doesn’t know who is who. Twenty more years of meditation, and maybe he’ll have a stinger of his own.

Could it be that hard
To hear a bee struggling
In a washbucket?
Shouldn’t it actually
Be harder not to hear?


Read all the Green Koans here.

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