Posted inHenry's Messages

Message from Henry: Most Foolish Person

June 6, 2017

It is said: Someone who does not know is Buddha.

In a book on Soen Nakagawa Roshi, I recently read a story about a master who gave his servant a staff, saying “This staff is for the most foolish person in the land. Find someone more foolish than yourself, then give it to him or her. Until then, always keep it with you.”

Feeling mortified, the servant took the staff and searched high and low, but couldn’t find anyone more foolish than himself.

Meanwhile the master fell gravely ill, and the servant rushed back to him.

His master told him: “I will soon be departing for a faraway land.”

The servant asked: “Where are you going?”

The master said, “I don’t know.”

“What route are you taking?”

The master again didn’t know.

“What packing have you done?”

“None at all, I’ve left everything as it is.”

“Then you are the greatest fool in the land,” said the servant. “You’re leaving for a long journey, and you don’t know where you’re going, or how you’re getting there, and you aren’t ready to go.” And he gave the master back the staff.

Soen Roshi comments: “We all have such a staff, even though it is invisible. Thanks to this staff, this world is enjoyable, and the next world is enjoyable. It is said: ‘Someone who does not know is Buddha’.”


I got tapped by the master’s staff recently. Thought I knew where we were going, and instead found myself transported to a bodhisattva realm, aka our local hospital, for a few days. This is the real zendo, I kept thinking, looking out my door at the comings and goings on the corridor of the ward. Here bodhisattvas help beings discern the bare fact of their existence and non-existence, neither of which can be clearly known without the other. They float among us, giving help and guidance as needed. It was truly humbling.

Four days in an unknown heaven. Now back in another one, at home, which is also entirely new, once again.


The theory of Zen is — there is no theory! It is this moment itself. What is the theory of that?


Message from Henry is from our June 5, 2017 Newsletter.
Image: Big Bubble by Hartwig HKD, CD by-ND 2.0 from

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