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Zen Story: Can You Make Me Obey You?

Posted in on 7-21-12

 

The great Zen Master, Bankei, was renowned for his talks. People of all sects and ranks came to listen to him because he spoke from his heart. Bankei was much-respected and his preaching was embraced by all.

Bankei’s popularity angered a priest of another sect whose followers left to listen to Bankei. The priest wondered what it was that made Bankei gain so many supporters, especially when Bankei did not even quote from any scholarly references! The more the priest thought about it, the more it enraged him. Vowing to end the matter conclusively with a debate, the priest stormed to the temple where Bankei lectured.

Upon reaching the temple, the priest called out to Bankei.
“Hey Zen Master!” the priest shouted. “You think you have a hold on these people because they come listen to you. They obey you because they respect you,” he claimed. “But me, I don’t respect you!” the priest declared. “Can you make me obey you?” he demanded of Bankei.

Bankei was amused by the priest’s anger. He retorted, “In order to have this discussion, you must come up here beside me.”

The proud priest made his way through the crowd to Bankei’s seat.
“Come to my left so I can see you better,” Bankei told the priest.
The priest walked over to Bankei’s left side.
“No, that’s no good,” stated Bankei. “It would be better for you to be on my right.”
The priest once again made his way to the Zen Master’s right side.

Bankei smiled and said, “You see, you are doing as I say now, which makes me believe that you are a good-natured and benevolent person.”

The priest was ashamed of his outrageous behavior and sat down to listen to Bankei talk.