Gudo was a zen mendicant from Kyoto. Once while moving towards Edo i.e. erstwhile Tokyo, in a rainy night, he approached a little village called Takenaka. The heavy rain had soaked Gudo’s straw sandal and ruined it. He noticed few pairs of dry sandals at a farmhouse and decided to buy some for himself.
The lady who sold Gudo the sandals upon seeing as to how wet he was, invited him to stay with her family for the night.
Gudo accepted the invitation humbly. After reciting a sutra before the family shrine, he then was introduced to rest of the family- lady’s mother and her children. It appeared to Gudo, however, that the entire family was sad and despondent which prompted him to ask as to what was wrong?
‘My husband is a gambler and a drunkard’ the lady replied. ‘He squanders all the money on wagering and alcohol. When he drinks, he becomes abusive. Sometimes he does not come home at all. What shall we do?’
‘I will help him’ said Gudo. ‘Take this money. Get me a gallon of fine quality wine and some fish. You may then leave. I will be meditating before the family shrine.’
The husband arrived late night, thoroughly drunk, and cried: ‘Wife, hey wife, do you have something for me to eat?’
‘I have something for you’ replied Gudo. ‘I could not proceed towards Edo due to heavy rain. Your wife mercifully invited me here for the night. I have bought some fish and wine in return, so you might as well have them.’
The man was elated. He ate the fish, drank the wine at once and fell asleep. Gudo continued meditating beside him.
In the morning when the man awoke, he had no reminiscence of the past night.
‘Who are you?’ he asked Gudo, who was still meditating beside him.
‘I am Gudo of Kyoto and I am going to Edo,’ replied the monk.
The man recognised Gudo, who was also the teacher of his emperor, instantly. The man was utterly ashamed of his behaviour, begging the forgiveness of the zen master.
Gudo replied with a smile: “Everything in this world is temporary. Life is very brief and the time never stops. If you keep on gambling and drinking then you would suffer, which would inturn cause suffering to your family.”
The consciousness of the man awoke and his repentance seemed real.
‘How could I ever repay you for this?’ said the man. ‘Let me accompany you for a few miles,‘
‘As you wish,’ said Gudo.
After walking three miles together, Gudo asked the man to return.
‘Just five miles more,’ begged the man. They continued walking.
‘You may return now,’ asked Gudo.
‘Just ten miles more,’ replied the man.
After ten miles Gudo suggested him to return again.
‘I am going to follow you for rest of my life,’ declared the man.
Modern zen masters celebrate the preachings of a popular monk who succeeded Gudo. His name was Mu-Nan, the man who never returned.
Refer to Zen Flesh, Zen Bones by Paul Reps