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Hakuin and the Accusation

A zen story:

A zen teacher named Hakuin lived in a small hut outside of a village. He had a great reputation and was liked by all.

One day a poor young woman in the village became pregnant and lied to her parents. She told them Hakuin was the father.

After the baby was born this young woman’s parents took the baby to Hakuin’s hut and said, “you got our daughter pregnant! You must take care of this child. We can’t afford it!”

They were very angry.

Hakuin said, “is that so?”

And accepted the baby, raising it as his own in his small hut.

This woman had ruined Hakuin’s reputation. People thought he was a wise and virtuous teacher and suddenly they didn’t think that anymore. They thought he was a creep. No one would be coming to learn from him any time soon, he obviously couldn’t be trusted.

And he just responded with patience. He could have responded with anger. He could have aggressively denied the accusation. He could have called the young woman crazy or evil. Would that have worked? Would they have listened to a denial? Who knows.

Instead his attitude was just, “Okay, I guess I’m raising a child now.”

He took care of that baby for over a year. It’s said that he took really good care of it. He borrowed milk from a neighbor and fed and clothed the baby, caring for all it’s needs, raising it as though it were his own.

A year went by and the young woman confessed. The baby’s father was a fisherman or something.

The parents came back and apologized to Hakuin for ruining his reputation and giving him the baby. They said they’d take the baby back since it wasn’t his responsibility.

And Hakuin said, “Is that so?”

And he let them take the baby he had cared for. This must have been hard on Hakuin. He had plenty of time to bond with this child and then he had to face what a lot of foster parents have to face. He had to just let the child go.

So, Hakuin can teach us something about how to handle drama. He was attacked and he handled it with humility and stoicism. He didn’t even worry about his reputation, he just did what had to be done.


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