I’m not sure if this was originally a Taoist story or not. Anyhow, wherever it began, it is a good story.
Once there was a shop owner who wanted a sign to put up in front of his shop to bring him good luck and many customers. He went to a Zen monk, and asked the monk to write a sign using Chinese characters for that purpose. The monk agreed to do it, but said it would take him at least a day. He told the shop owner to return the next evening, and the sign should be ready. The shop owner agreed to that.
The next day when the shop owner returned. When he saw the sign that the monk had written, he was horrified at the message he saw written on the sign, The sign read, “Grandfather dies, Father dies, Son dies.”
He confronted the monk asking, “What is this terrible thing you have written for me? I asked you for a sign that I could put up outside my shop…and all you give me is this story of death. Do you intend to curse my family?”
The monk answered, “This is not a story of death. What I meant by the sign is this. First, when I said Grandfather Dies, I meant that no man should die before he has a Grandson. And when I wrote Father Dies, I meant that no man should die before he has a son to carry on his family name. Finally, when I wrote Son Dies, I meant that no son should die until both his grandfather and his father have passed away before him. This is the natural order of things, and therefore it is not an evil curse, but a great blessing for your family.”
When he heard this, the shop owner understood the Monk’s meaning. He took the sign and had it hung outside his shop for everyone to see. He thought of it as a great blessing, and told the story to all of his customers.
(Do you all understand the meaning of that story?)
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
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