wise man statue

First a short traditional Zen Buddhist story:

In a small hut, Hakuin live a quiet life devoted to monastic purity. When the young unmarried daughter of a the village grocer became pregnant, she named Hakuin as the father. Her outraged parnts went to Hakuin and charged him with the deed. Hakuin simply said, “Is that so?”

When the child was born, once again the parents came to Hakuin. They handed him the baby and demanded he take responsibility for raising it. Hakuin said, “Is that so!” and took the baby in his arms. He dutifully began to look after the infant.

A year later, the young woman could bear it no longer. She confessed that the real father was a young man who worked in a nearby fishmarket. The parents went to Hakiun once more, this time making deep apologies, and asked him to return the child. Hakuin said only, “Is that so” and gave the baby back to them.

I have been reflecting on this story for the past few weeks. First, I couldn’t imagine myself having the detachment of this master. Here a noble man allowed someone to accuse him of an act that was in total violation of all that he exemplified. He never defended himself or tried to dissuade the parents that he was not the father of the child.

How often has someone accused me of something and my first reaction was an aggressive defense of myself. I was determined to show the other person that not only were they wrong and I was right; there was some flaw in them that would have them think such a thing about me. Never once did I consider them. Never once did I consider how some aspect of what they said might ring true. Never once did I care about anything but looking good.

Another part of the lesson comes when the “truth” is discovered. The parents ask for forgiveness and the master only accepts then without response. He shows me the great gift of compassion. For there is nothing that need be said.

Again as I look within, I see times when I was falsely accused of something. If I didn’t at first get the impression corrected, I was always waiting for the other person to “see the light”. If they did, I would be “gracious” on the surface and truthfully I would be pushing them to do something to make up for the “injustice” they had perpetrated upon me.

As I look around, I can see defensiveness and righteousness throughout the corporate world. So much time is spent in who is right rather than on how can we best serve.

What does this story mean to you?

Until later.


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One thought on “Acceptance

  1. Hi Thomas,
    I just wrote a post about issues that I see around the recent push to build self esteem. In my opinion, from my work on myself and with my daughter, we’ve gotten mixed up about what is our fundamental human worth and our constant tendency to assess ourselves and others.

    Assessing ourselves is a good thing – so that we can see what we’re doing well, what we’re not doing so well, where we can improve ourselves and where we might want to focus more energy because it’s one of our strengths. Failure is just a learning opportunity.

    Yet, I find myself, my children and others in the workplace judging themselves but then linking it to their worth as a human being. What I mean is that when we fail at something, we feel like that means that we’re a “bad” person – rather than just seeing it as a sign that we have something to learn.

    I think the feelings that this judgement of our self worth brings up is also what is behind the reactions that you refer to – when we feel the need to defend ourselves, when we fight back, when we feel the need to say “see, I TOLD you I was right…”

    If you like, check out

    I think you’re completely right that it is a fundamental self-acceptance that allows us to be present during any interaction or conflict.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts so openly and eloquently!

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