When Te-shan’s student Hsüeh-feng reproved him for coming to dinner before the bell rang, Te-shan simply turned around and walked back to his room. The meal was late, but Te-shan did not justify his own action or criticize Hsüeh-feng. He did not say, even gently, “You know, we have only so much time for dinner. When the meal is late, rest-time is cut short for the monks. Our schedule is tight in this monastery, and when rest-time is cut short, the monks have no way to catch up.” No, he was totally at ease and serene—able to take correction and teach in return.

Turning around was Te-shan’s perfect presentation of the whole matter, but Hsüeh-feng didn’t get it, and went on to justify himself to Yen-t’ou. He felt proud that he had defeated his old teacher, and didn’t notice that he had been given a lesson.

– Robert Aitken, from “The Seventh Grave Precept,” Mind of Clover

Image © Emily Carlin

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