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Koan: The Moon Cannot Be Stolen

Koan: The Moon Cannot Be Stolen

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.”

3 comments to Koan: The Moon Cannot Be Stolen

  • jeremy

    very new to buddhism, can i “understand” this. I think I do but not sure of its ok to?

  • As with all the koans, there is rarely a “right” or “wrong” answer.

    You read the story and apply your own experiences to it to create some meaning that is unique to you. What it means to me, and what it means to you could be completely different things, yet both are “right.”

    Some of these stories make no obvious sense to some people, but others can be affected strongly. That’s the benefit of them; sooner or later you’ll run into one that has a positive effect on you.

  • Subjectivity9

    Funny, I was thinking about the multiple levels of truth, just today.

    In my own Spiritual journeys,I have often noticed how certain phrases or lessons and yes koans have affected me differently along the way. The best of these phrases/lesson seem to travel along with you growing as you grow in understanding and clarity. The koan can shape shift, the meaning changing as needed right before your eyes.

    At one level, it is no doubt in my mind, a koan may strike you like a metaphor or even something you might read in the I Ching for wisdom, speaking to you in an intimate and personal fashion. Each of these many insights is real and true within the specific moment or context in which you might stand, it is a perspective.

    In my own understanding of the koan as a teaching device, I see it’s highest voice eventually as coming directly from the perspective of Enlightened Being. Yes, it travels that far.

    A koan is a finger pointing. Do not look at the finger, but where it is pointing.