Once Zen master Hakuin lived on outskirts of a village in Japan. He was very famous and has great reputation. Whole village respected him. Whenever he would go to village for alms, people would greet and welcome him and would give him many things.
But one day everything changed.
A young unmarried girl in village became pregnant and gave birth to child. When her family asked about child’s father. She said that it was Hakuin’s child.
Girl’s father raged. He gathered people in town and walked to Hakuin’s place. It didn’t take long for people to change. Those people who once respected him, now attacked Hakuin’s hut and started abusing him.
They set Hakuin’s hut on fire.
Hakuin came out and asked, “What’s matter?”
People shouted, “This child is yours.! Take him with you.”
Hakuin said, “Is it so? Is this child mine?”
Just then child started crying, so he started singing song to calm child. Hakuin didn’t argue or said anything. People left child with him. Girl also left.
Later he went to beg at his usual time with child but today every door he stood in front of, was slammed shut. While he walked by village roads, crowd of people started teasing him, abusing him and threw stones at him.
Hakuin reached house of girl whose child it was.
He said, “Don’t give food for me but at least give some milk for this child. I may be at fault but what’s fault of this child?”
Child was crying, listening to child crying, became unbearable for girl and she fell at feet of her father and said, “Forgive me i lied. I gave name of Hakuin because i wanted to save real father of child. So i thought to using Hakuin’s name.”
Father realized what great mistake he did. he ran out of house and fell at feet of Hakuin and tried to take baby.
Hakuin asked, “What’s matter?”
Girl’s father said, “Forgive me. There has been mistake. This child is not yours.”
Hakuin replied, “Is this so? Is the child not mine?”
Hakuin gave child to Girls father and started to leave.
Just then people from crowd said, “You are mad!! Why didn’t you deny it this morning?”
Hakuin replied, “What difference would it have made? The child must belong to somebody. You had already burnt one hut – you would have just burnt one more. You had enjoyed defaming one person, you would have enjoyed defaming one more.”
People said, “Child wasn’t your yet everyone condemned you, insulted you, humiliated you. Still you didn’t said anything. Why?”
Hakuin replied, “If I had been concerned with your condemnation, I would have been concerned about your respect also. I do as I feel right, you do whatever you feel to be right.
Until yesterday you felt it right to respect me so you did. Today you felt it right not to respect me so you didn’t. But I am not concerned with either your respect or your disrespect.”
People said, “Your good reputation was lost. Everyone thought you were bad person.”
He replied, “I am neither bad nor good. I am simply myself. I have dropped this idea of good and bad. I have dropped all concern in becoming good. I dropped the very idea. I became absolutely indifferent.”
Zen Master’s Stories: Two Monks and a Woman