A Zen Story : Publishing the Sutras (scriptures)

Written By: Sky Yang

Long ago in Japan, a devotee of zen decided to publish the sutras (scriptures), which at the time were only available in Chinese. The books were to be printed with wood blocks in an edition of seven thousand copies, a tremendous task.

So he began by traveling and collecting donations for this purpose, from time to time a few supporters would donate pieces of gold, but most of the time he received only a few coins. He thanked each donor with equal gratitude.

After ten years he finally had enough money to carry out his task. It happened that at the time a typhoon swept the nation causing a local river to overflow. Destruction and famine followed. So the zen devotee took the funds he had collected for the books and spent them to save others from this ordeal. Then he began again in his work of collecting.

Several years after, an epidemic spread through the country. The zen devotee again gave away what he had collected to help his people. For the third time, he began again from the ground up.

Finally, after twenty years, his goal was achieved. The printing blocks which produced the first edition of sutras in Japan can be seen today in the Obaku monastery in Kyoto by a now known zen master, named Tetsugen Doko.

To this day, the Japanese have been telling their children that Tetsugen made three sets of sutras in his life and the first two invisible sets surpass even the last.

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