9. The Moon Cannot Be Stolen

    Ryo-Kwan1, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing in it to steal. 

    Ryo-Kwan returned and caught him. "You may have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty handed. Please take my clothes as a gift." 

    The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away. 

    Ryo-Kwan sat naked watching the moon. 

    "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could give him this beautiful moon."


1. Ryōkan Taigu (1758–1831) was a quiet and unconventional Sōtō Zen Buddhist monk who lived much of his life as a hermit. Ryōkan is remembered for his poetry and calligraphy, which present the essence of Zen life. He is also known by the name Ryokwan in English.


A poem by Ryokan - "There is a Bamboo Grove Around My House"