Bankei was a famous Zen teacher in Japan many years ago.
His lectures were so popular they attracted many students, they were always open to anyone, no matter what their experience with Zen was.
Once during a series of lectures some of his long term students found that some of their personal items had been stolen. The obvious suspect was a stranger new to the lectures.
So they searched his room, and found some of the stolen items in his room.
The students went to Bankei asking him to expel the thief, but to their surprise Bankei did nothing.
Not long later other personal items were found missing and again a search of this strangers room found the stolen items.
This time the long time students wrote up a petition, and presented it to their teacher Bankei asking formally that the stranger be expelled.
Bankei accepted their petition telling them he would reveal his decision the next day. The students all gathered together the next day to hear his decision.
Bankei spoke to them saying, "I have read your petition, but I am afraid I can not expel this person who is a known thief."
'You are all good students, and have been with me for a long time', he continued, "and I will do everything I can to help you find another teacher if you wish to leave".
"But I must explain why I can not expel this person as you request", he said.
"As good and conscientious students, I am sure you will all have no problems finding another teacher. Clearly you all understand the difference between right and wrong conduct", he explained.
"But this poor fellow here", he said pointing at the thief, "he does not understand that fact. Now if were to expel him as you want me to, he would be disgraced and no teacher would accept him again. If that were done, where would he ever have another chance to hear and understand the Dharma? For that reason I must reject your petition, even though it might mean that some of you, my long time and conscientious students would leave me. That would be a sad event, but I can not allow such a thing to occur and deprive this poor man of his change to hear the dharma. So, for that reason I must reject your petition."
When hearing this the theif broke into tears. The story goes that he became Bankeis best student, and it is presumed, eventually achieved understanding of the dharma with Benkei as his teacher.
Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting the precedent of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there--
in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere (simply) to find it?
from - Judyth Collin
The Layman's Lament
From What Book, 1998, p. 52
Edited by Gary Gach