When the Zen Buddhist Monk Bankei (1622–93) was still an acolyte, every night he would sit in meditation. One morning after meditating he was resting by a stable when a samurai came along to train his horse. As Bankei looked on idly, it became apparent to him that the horse was out of sorts, and balking at its rider’s commands. The samurai yelled at the animal and beat it.
Bankei shouted, “What do you think you’re doing!”
The samurai paid no attention, but only whipped the animal all the harder. Bankei kept on shouting, until finally the samurai dismounted and walked over to him.
“You have been scolding me for some time, I believe,” he said quietly. “If you have something to teach me, I am willing to listen.”
His words were exceedingly polite, but it was clear that depending on what kind of answer he received, he might erupt in anger.
Without hesitating, Bankei told him, “It is foolish to blame only the horse for failing to listen to you. The horse has its own reasons. If you want it to listen, you must encourage it to do so. To do that, you must start with yourself. Do you understand?”
This was a humble and intelligent samurai, for he nodded, bowed, and left. Then, with a change of attitude, he remounted his steed. Sure enough, the horse too was now a changed creature, and docilely obeyed his every command.
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