Tuesday, 19 May 2009

an Inn for All

Realisation: The Palace that Became an Inn for All

A respected monk arrived at the gates of a King's grand palace. Due to his great fame, none of the guards dared to halt him as he entered the hall where the King was seated on his throne. The following conversation ensued.

King: Dear Venerable Sir, how may I assist you?
Monk: I would like somewhere to spend the night in this inn.

King: You have mistaken! This is no inn - it's my palace!

Monk: Who owned this place before you?

King: My late father.

Monk: And who ruled it before him?

King: My grandfather, who is also deceased.

Monk: If this is where people come to live only for a while before leaving, why is it not an inn?

King: I am so sorry! This is indeed an inn. Your stay is most welcome!

The monk had wanted to remind the King of the irrefutable truth of transience, of all things material and even mental, of the fleeting nature of his life, wealth and status - despite wielding great power. Similar to the King, wherever we live, be it a big house or a small apartment, is like a hotel. Even the most valuable material things within are but items in a hotel, temporally 'loaned' to us for use. As much as we might wish to live in this hotel forever, we can never - unless we realise the path to transcend the cycle of life and death. Even this body that we have, which we think is ours to rule over is a hotel which we live in, for usually less than a hundred more years! If so, may we use 'our' body wisely and share 'our' posessions kindly!
- Shen Shi'an

I received this recently on one of the
Daily Enlightenment weekly emails and it gave me cause for reflection. What I saw was that I really don't treat my own home as well as I would treat an "Inn for All". In fact I pay much much less attention to the cleanliness and tidiness of "my own spaces" than I do to other places. For example, when I stay with my fiancée at her friend's flat, as we often do over weekends, we usually dedicate an hour or even two to cleaning the place before we leave it. We are both very grateful for the weekend loan of the flat and we do our best to leave it in a tidier and cleaner state than how we receive it. And this is not to say it is ever untidy or unclean when we get there! And I really enjoy this cleaning time we have together, it is very meditative and a nice way to offer gratitude.

So what is missing when it comes to treating "my own space" as an "Inn for All" and putting in the extra effort and love to express the respect and gratitude I feel?

I'm not sure yet actually, but I can certainly see it is missing in many areas - "my" (rented) house, "my" garden, "my" car, "my" work space... I keep
all of these relatively tidy and relatively clean, but not to the degree that I can say they are always an expression of my respect and gratitude and ready to hand over to the next (royal?) occupant!


veggieinlove said...

"So what is missing...?" The answer is in your post, "my" dear! :) This notion of "my" + noun (be it house/garden/car or even husband/wife/children etc) moves away the urgency of 'this too temporally loan to us'. Thus,in this context, we tend to take "my own space" for granted because...come on we pay for the rent/fees/insurance etc. "An expression of my respect and gratitude to my own space" can always wait because I have more important things to do.

Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

barry108 said...

Wow, great comment box!

Zen Master Seung Sahn used to remark that his body was just a "rental car" - he wasn't planning on keeping it!

Alice said...

Forget the rental cars. Now it's the ZipCar - car sharing, not renting. Great, now that they're zipping around all over the city, I'll be able to remember the teaching!