15. Sho-Un and His Mother

    Sho-Un1 became a teacher of Soto Zen2. When he was still a student his father passed away, leaving him to care for his old mother.

    When Sho-Un would go to a meditation hall he took his mother with him. Since she accompanied him, when he visited monasteries, he could not live with the monks. So he would build a little house and care for her there. He would copy Sutras, Buddhist verses, and in this manner receive a few coins for food.

    When Sho-Un bought fish for his mother, the people would scoff at him, for a monk is not supposed to eat fish. But Sho-Un did not mind. His mother, however, was hurt to see others laugh at her son. Finally she told Sho-Un, "I think I will become a nun. I can be a vegetarian too." She did, and they studied together. 

    Sho-Un was fond of music and was a master of the harp, which his mother also played. On full-moon nights they used to play together.

    One night a young lady passed by their house and heard music. Deeply touched, she invited Sho-Un to visit her the next evening and play. He accepted the invitation. A few days later he met the young lady on the street and thanked her for her hospitality. Others laughed at him. He had visited the house of a woman of the streets.
    One day Sho-Un left for a distant temple to deliver a lecture. A few months afterwards he returned home to find his mother dead. Friends had not known where to reach him, so the funeral was then in progress. 
    Sho-Un walked up and hit the coffin with his staff. "Mother, your son has returned," he said.

    "I am glad to see you have returned, son," he answered for his mother.

    "Yes, I'm glad too," Sho-Un responded.

    Then he announced to the people about him, "The funeral ceremony is over. You may bury the body."

    When Sho-Un was old, he knew his end was approaching. He asked his disciples to gather around him in the morning, telling them he was going to pass on at noon. Burning incense before the picture of his mother and his old teacher, he wrote a poem.

        Few fifty-six years I lived as best I could,
        Making my way in this world.
        Now the rain has ended, the clouds are clearing,
        The blue sky has a full moon.

    He disciples gathered about him, reciting a Sutra, and Sho-Un passed on during the invocation.



1. Sho-Un

2. Soto Zen