Structures – 8
Zen Story: The Tunnel
Once upon a time Zenkai, the son of a samurai, journeyed to Edo and there became the retainer of a high official. Unfortunately being rather handsome, young and foolhardy, he fell in love with the official’s wife. For many days he swooned over her from afar until a time when the official was away and a chance meeting cast the pair into secret love affair. One day in the throngs of passion they were discovered by the very husband who’d unexpectedly returned home. In self defense Zenkai was forced to slay the official and was constrained to run away with her.
While in hiding their difficult circumstance forced them to become thieves, but the woman was so gluttonous that nothing Zenkai did was satisfactory. Zenkai by then increasing disgusted, eventually left her and journeyed far away to the province of Buzen, where he became a wondering beggar. A day did not go by where he did not repent for his past mistakes. One day, as he reflected on the dangerous road over a cliff that had caused the death and injury of so many travellers, he passively observed the hard working ants going in and out of their burrow, suddenly he jumped up, having had an epiphany. That moment he was resolved to remedy his sins by accomplishing some good deed in his lifetime to atone for his past sins.
From that day forth, he begged food in daytime and worked diligently at night digging with whatever means he had to construct a tunnel. When thirty years had gone by, the tunnel was 2,280 feet long, 20 feet high and 30 feet wide.
Two years before the task was to be completed however, Zenkai encountered the son of the official he had slain. The son was a skillful swordsman bent on avenging his father.
“As you have every right, I will surrender my life to you most willingly” implored Zenkai. “I only ask that you please first let me finish this task I’ve started. On the day of its completion, I will gladly bow my neck to your blade.”
After long consideration the son nodded and several months passed as he observed at first Zenkai digging and working with all his might to complete this very worthy project.
Eventually he got tired of just standing by and watching, and begun aiding Zenkai with the dig. Working alongside Zenkai time after time, seeing the sincerity of latter’s remorse, recognizing the now a better man striving so hard to atone for his youthful folly, the official’s son bit by bit forgave Zenkai’s crime. After he had helped for more than a year, in his heart the seething rage became replaced with rare admiration for Zenkai’s tenacity, strong will and character.
On the day the tunnel was completed, Zenkai washed himself and his clothes in the nearby river, then boldly walked up to the official’s son, and kneeling before him spoke the works of atonement then urged the other to dispense with his due punishment.
“Now cut off my head. My work is done.” He was ready and willing harbouring no in will to the righteous son. Perfectly composed still kneeling, he bowed his head and waited.
The son unsheathing his sword, raised the blade high in the sky… then waited.
“What are you waiting for?” Zenkai shouted at him, looking up. “I’m deserving of death, get on with it.”
“How can I cut off my own teacher’s head?” asked the younger man with tears in his eyes.