Nonoko And The Thief

There was an old Zen master called Nonoko who lived alone in a hut at the foot of a mountain. One night while Nonoko was sitting in meditation, a stranger broke into the hut and, brandishing a sword, demanded Nonoko’s money.

Nonoko did not interrupt his meditation while he addressed the man:

“All my money is in a bowl on the shelf up there. Take all you need, but leave me five yen. I have to pay my taxes next week.”

The stranger emptied the bowl of all the money it held and threw five yen back into it. He also helped himself to a precious vase he found on the shelf.

“Carry that vase with care,” said Nonoko. “It will crack easily.”

The stranger looked around the small barren room once more and was going to leave.

“You haven’t said thank you,” said Nonoko.

The man said thank you and left. The next day the whole village was in turmoil. Many people claimed they had been robbed. Someone noticed the vase missing from the shelf in Nonoko’s hut and asked if he, too, had been the victim of the burglar.

“Oh, no,” said Nonoko. “I gave the vase to a stranger, along with some money. He thanked me and left. He was a pleasant enough sort of fellow, but a bit careless with his sword!”

This is from The Heart of the Enlightened, a book of spiritual stories by Anthony de Mello.

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