Zen Story: The Moon Cannot be Stolen

zen flesh zen bones

This is one of my favourite Zen stories, taken from the amazing book ‘Zen Flesh, Zen Bones‘. It oozes with love and wonderment

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryoken sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”

Overflowing love, the moon is here for everyone, it cannot be stolen, it can never be possessed, and need not be possessed. Why bother with worldly items when the metaphorical Moon is here?