“Thinking about Joshu: One of the most beloved masters in early China was Joshu, admired for his economy and spirit. Zen Master Joshu was born in 778 CE and became a monk when he was 18 years of age. He stayed with his teacher Nansen for 40 years. When Nansen died, Joshu grieved for some years, and then, at the age of 60, after his grief had worn through, he said “I think I’m going to wander around for a while.” He spent the next 20 years traveling about China, visiting various Zen teachers and letting them check his mind. He was checking their minds too.
At the age of 80 he thought, “It’s time to settle down now,” and he became the head of a small temple, where students would come and go, and he would have quiet, pointed interactions with those who met him. It was said that a kind of light shown around his mouth, he was so direct, purified, simple, non-greedy about his own mind and his own practice. Modest and having submitted for so long, he became who he really was. He died at the age of 120, and thus he had the advantage, once he had settled down at the age of 80, to have another 40 years of discovery, enjoying peculiar and unmediated interactions with those who found their way to his modest temple.”
~ Roshi Joan Halifax
i don’t know that it is important to believe the specifics of this story, as some have questioned.
rather, the power for me is in the message of the story, the simplicity of purpose, the humility of spirit. i really connected with these.
i am always impressed by the amount of grief these stories expose of students when their masters/teachers pass. so beautiful, so human and sacred. the path of awakening is not something that helps us escape these heavy things in life, but the practice gives us the grounding to sit, to walk, and to live with it…and what we find is that we have this heart with an incredible capacity to hold Life.
thank you for sharing, Roshi Joan.