Shoun became a teacher of Soto Zen. When he was still a student his
father passed away, leaving him to care for his old mother.
Whenever Shoun went to a meditation hall he always took his mother with
him. Since she accompanied him, when he visited monasteries he could not
live with the monks. So he would built a little house and care for her
there. He would copy sutras, Buddhist verses, and in this manner receive
a few coins for food.
When Shoun bought fish for his mother, the people would scoff at him,
fo a monk is not supposed to eat fish. But Shoun did not mind. His
mother, however, was hurt to see others laugh at her son. Finally she
told Shoun: "I think I will become a nun. I can be vegetarian too." She
did, and they studied together.
Shoun was fond of music and was a master of the harp, which his mother
also played. On full-moon nights they used to play together. One night a
young lady passed by their house and heard music. Deeply touched, she
invited Shoun to visit her the next evening and play. He accepted the
invitation. A few days later he met the young lady on the street and
thanked her for her hospitality. Others laughed at him. He had visited
the house of a woman of the streets.
One day Shoun left for a distant temple to deliver a lecture. A few
months afterwards he returned home to find his mother dead. Friends had
not known where to reach him, so the funeral was in progress.
Shoun walked up and hit the coffin with his staff. "Mother, your son
has returned," he said.
"I am glad to see you have returned, son," he answered for his mother.
"Yes, I am glad too," Shoun responded. Then he announced to the people
about him: "The funeral ceremony is over. You may bury the body."
When Shoun was old he knew his end was approaching. He asked his
disciples to gather around him in the morning, telling them he was going
to pass on at noon. Burning incense before the picture of his mother and
his old teacher, he wrote a poem:
For fifty-six years I lived as best I could,
Making my way in this world.
Now the rain has ended, the clouds are clearing,
The blue sky has a full moon.
His disciples gathered around him, reciting sutra, and Shoun passed on
during the invocation.