I was reading yet another one of the Zen Koans but there was one in particular that I took a while to grasp knowledge of. I read it over a few times before understanding my own interpretation. It is Koan 52 “Sour Miso” and it reads,
The cook monk Dairyo, at Bankei’s monastery, decided that he would take good care of his old teacher’s health and give him only fresh miso, a paste of soy beans mixed with wheat and yeast that often ferments. Bankei, noticing that he was being served better miso than his pupils, asked: “Who is the cook today?”
Dairyo was sent before him. Bankei learned that according to his age abd position he should eat only fresh miso. So he said to the cook: “Then you think I shouldn’t eat at all.” With this he entered his room and locked the door.
Dairyo, sitting outside the door, asked his teacher’s pardon. Bankei would not answer. For seven days Dairyo sat outside and Bankei within.
Finally in desperation an adherent called loudly to Bankei: “You may be all right, old teacher, but this young disciple here has to eat. He cannot go without food forever!”
At that Bankei opened the door. He was smiling. He told Dairyo: “I insist on eating the same food as the least of my followers. When you become the teacher I do not want you to forget this.”
When I interpreted this Koan the first thought to my head was equality. I was thinking about how the world is not equal. Everyone is treated differently by different people and depending on whom you like or dislike. For example many people don’t treat you the same because of the mistakes you make. And some people treat you better than others because you have done something good. To me this is wrong.
Life is full of mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable, we all make mistakes whether big or small. We should be able to forgive and forget and remember that all are equal in the eyes of the force, God, Tao or whatever other name you want to call it.
Personally I tend to do my best to treat others the same. I forget about race, age, sex, sexuality etc and treat them equally as they are children of the force like me. There is a quote I remember that has a connection to this equality.
“Look around you. In the 7th cavalry, we’ve got a captain from the Ukraine; another from Puerto Rico. We’ve got Japanese, Chinese, Blacks, Hispanics, Cherokee Indians. Jews and Gentiles. All Americans. Now here in the states, some of you in this unit may have experienced discrimination because of race or creed. But for you and me now, all that is gone. We’re moving into the valley of the shadow of death, where you will watch the back of the man next to you, as he will watch yours. And you won’t care what colour he is, or by what name he calls God. They say we’re leaving home. We’re going to what home was always supposed to be. Now let us understand the situation. We are going into battle against a tough and determined enemy. I can’t promise you that I will bring you all home alive. But this I swear, before you and before Almighty God, that when we go into battle, I will be the first to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off, and I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together. So help me, God”:- Lt. Col. Hal Moore
This quote/speech has taught me a lot and has been a fine addition to the teaching of “Sour Miso” We can all learn something from equality to treat others the same and also to have some restraint and discipline over ourselves.
Written by - Tai-Da Vrikaurvan