Words of love, Iida Toin

Daruma by Iida Toin. Image © Shambhala PublicationsIida Toin (a Soto Zen master of the early twentieth centu­ry) remarked once: Words of love are not always kindly words. Let us look at a specific case. Suppose I’ve never been healthy, and my general physical condition is getting worse and worse. No serious illness yet, but I recognize that I have to do something about it; my life situation demands that I get well quickly. So I put myself in the hands of an expert who gives me a programme which includes an early morning run followed by a cold shower and all sorts of restrictions on diet and late nights. The body grumbles: Oh no! I can’t stand this! or, Oh, not that again! and Can’t we have just one day off? and so on. The programme has to be imposed on the body, imposed by force. The body finds it hateful. But the basis is love, and after a few months the body is grateful for the new vigour and zest in physical movement.

There is a Japanese poem that says if the mother loves the child, then when she slaps it it is right, and when she gives it a sweet it is right, and when she ignores it it is right, and when she makes a fuss of it, that too is right. But if it is a stepmother who secretly hates the child, then when she slaps it it is wrong, when she gives it a sweet it is wrong, when she ignores it, that is wrong, and when she makes a fuss of it, that too is wrong.

We have to realize that life cannot be always easy and pleasant. Suppose there is a child who is very talented musically and is studying the piano under a good teacher. It is not always going to be pleasant. The child wants to play, it is true, but not scales. The child wants to play the waltzes of Strauss or Gungl, but not Bach or Beethoven. Some force has to be used, but that force is based on insight and love, not of the unformed taste of the child, but of the talent that is awaiting development.

Extract from The Old Zen Master, by Trevor Leggett,
Buddhist Publishing Group

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He comes and goes hundreds of times, so how can you meet him?
Respectfully inscribed by Priest Toin on February 20, Taisho 15 [1925] (Painting sealed by Hoten)

Daruma (Bodhidharma) seems to be sitting still but his inner Zen nature is always moving, so he cannot be pinned down with words. This is actually true of all of us—we are never quite like what we think we are.

Image © Shambhala Publications. Daruma by Iida Toin.

With kind thanks to Shambhala Publications.

One Response

  1. Interesting Zen take on ‘tough love’. Thank you.

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