Zen for Americans, by Soyen Shaku, , at sacred-texts.com
IN ancient times there was a king who had among his valuable possessions a precious stone which he most highly prized. An attendant of his one day dropped it accidentally in a very deep lake which was in his palace garden. The king was greatly troubled and immediately made an inquiry among his subjects whether there was any one who could locate the precious treasure in the water and safely restore it to his hands, adding that such a one would receive a handsome reward.
There was among his retainers a man called Clear-Sighted, whose optical power was considered almost supernatural, and everybody thought that he was the man who could find the lost gem in the lake, however deep and wide it might be. The man was brought before the king and was directly commissioned to make a search for the gem.
Clear-Sighted dived deep into the water and tried to locate the precious stone at its bottom. But, singularly, his sight did not avail him to any
great extent, for he was utterly unable to observe it anywhere. The harder he strove the dimmer became his sight. Completely disappointed at this unexpected discovery of his shortsightedness, he came out from the bottom of the lake, and reported his miserable failure to the king, whose mortification now knew no bounds.
The king did not know what to do; he could not reconcile himself to the new situation. A long consultation was held again, but no one seemed to be able to solve the problem in a practical way. In despair they finally came to test a most unusual method, which seemed almost absurd and ridiculous.
They knew there was a man called Sightless, and thought if Clear-Sighted was of no avail this blind man might be found useful in such a case as this, which was so extraordinary. At any rate, the attempt would not result in making the situation worse. Things miraculous have frequently been performed by the blind, and why not in this case?
Sightless was sent for and asked to go down -into the water and find the lost gem. The man went down as he was told, without any protestation. When he came out after a short time, the treasure was in his hand. The king was overjoyed and rewarded him most generously
The moral of this allegorical story is that much cunning and great learning are not the
most effective means, as ordinarily supposed, to obtain the priceless gem of religious truth, but that the simple in heart and poor in spirit will find the way to heavenly bliss.
186:1 This story was told by the Rev. Shaku to illustrate Chapter 9 of the Sutra of Forty-two Chapters.