The Zen master, Hakuin, lived in a village next door to a family. The young, rather attractive girl of the house became pregnant, and her furious parents demanded to know who the father was. The girl said it was Hakuin. Her father went next door in a rage and confronted the master, saying, “you have made my daughter pregnant and you will be held accountable for your actions”. “Is that so?”, replied Hakuin. The master’s reputation in the village was in tatters, and when the child was born, the girl’s parents took it to him and said, “this is your doing, therefore you will have to be responsible for the child’s upbringing”. “Is that so?”, replied Hakuin.
Months passed and the master looked after the child with all the tender care of a loving parent. Eventually, wracked with guilt, the girl confessed that the real father of the child was the young man who worked in the village grocery store. The horrified and embarrassed parents went back to the master and apologised profusely for what had happened. “Is that so?”, said Hakuin as he handed over the child.
This little story tells us two things; firstly that reputation is of the ego, it represents the views and opinions that others hold about us. We can choose to believe those views, but if we do, we run the risk of developing a mind-set about ourselves that is not true and not representative of the light that we really are. It also illustrates the importance of accepting “what is”. In life we have a tendency to try to filter out anything that comes along that the mind tells us is not agreeable. But Zen is about the acceptance of what is, in the knowledge that the world is constantly in motion, that “this too will pass” and “what we resist will persist”. Hakuin was a Zen master; a realised soul, and he was completely unmoved by the whole sorry business. He transcended the ego, therefore he was fully functioning in the world without being a part of the world; he remained “the eternal witness” as the drama played itself out.