Monday, April 23, 2007

Ethics for Activists - 13

It is said that Tetsugen, a Zen monk in 17th Century Japan, wanted to publish the sutras which, at that time, existed only in Chinese. His plan was to publish 7000 copies from carved woodblocks. This would be very expensive and he set about collecting money from anyone who would donate to his project. Occasionally he would meet a rich patron who would give him a hundred gold coins, but mostly he would be given only a few small coins. In this way, after ten years, he had enough to set about publishing the sutras. But as it happened, at that time, the Uji River burst its banks, causing much havoc. There followed famine and much suffering. Tetsugen used the money he had collected to relieve people's suffering, to save people from starvation.

Again, Tetsugen set about collecting the money he needed. And after many more years he was once again able to begin his publishing project. But there was an epidemic that struck the land and once again, Tetsugen used the money he had collected to aid the people.

Once more Tetsugen began to collect funds and finally after twenty years he was able to realize his dream and to publish the sutras. The woodblocks can still be seen in Obaku monastery in Kyoto.

The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen produced three sets of sutras and that the first two are invisible and surpass the third.

(based on a version found in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones compiled by Paul Reps)

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