Kitaro was a Monk of the Fifth Order; he was ranked by the Society of Elders to be “other-worldly”. He had lived through the Purge of the Daiku Shogunate; he had survived through the Winter of Three Famines. He was known throughout the Kinshu Province as The Wise One. Wisdom was spoken without words; strength was displayed through a stare; Kitaro was visited by princes and royalties from the world over; he owned nothing – but a teapot and two teacups.
On this beautiful morning, with the sparrows chirping in the blossom of the radiant rock garden of Koishu Gardens, where the gravel had been carefully swept in symmetrical flowing waters around the moss-covered boulders, Kitaro was about to sit down for his morning tea.
The morning had seen many beggars wandering about, asking the Monastery for some rice. One such beggar had been a child of ten who was blind from birth. What irritated Kitaro – well, perhaps ‘irritated’ was too strong a word, for he had shown no such emotion – was that the boy was, in his opinion, slovenly as well as being blind. A man can shut out the world with total darkness, Kitaro had thought to himself; but the world still sees such a man.
He prepared to sit down for a cup of tea; he could smell the sweet aroma of the boiling tea in the teapot; he stood just a foot away from the table upon which he sat each morning; and as he customarily did, he turned to the Koishu Gardens to survey the meditative serenity, so that when he would sit, he need not turn to the garden for further refreshment; his mind’s eye would already hold the butterfly’s dream, to enjoy along with the taste of his morning tea.
As he surveyed the beauty of the garden’s lack, he marveled at how beauty is not in the abundance, but in the un-ness; that life was not to be discovered in possessions, but rather in the joy of less-ness; and these life-lessons he had learned well, for he owned nothing – but for the teapot and the two cups, of course – and his joy was not found in material wealth, but rather the simple chirp of a sparrow landing upon the twig of a decaying tree, unbeknownst to the world, as decay is merely the lifespring of age, both of the soul, as well as of the body.
The material world had no hold upon Kitaro, and Kitaro had long ago renounced the materiality of the world around him. By owning nothing – except for the teapot and the two cups – matter could not matter to him. As he surveyed the vast desolation of the beauty of the Koishu Gardens, the right side of his lips curled ever so slightly, as if to scoff at the world around him; for the butterfly’s dream was the world he embraced; the material world had no hold upon him; the serenity of un-ness was the world he sat on top of; the rampant greed, and world of capitalism, the vulgarity of consumerism, and the unhappiness of the surrounding universe – he had conquered it all.
Kitaro embraced the serenity of the moment; the moment was as a grain of sand, its quiet beauty as uncomplicated as his own soul; the smallness as significant, as relevant, as existential importance, as man himself. Kitaro felt no emotion; felt only oneness with the grain of sand, with the peace of the Koishu Gardens.
Suddenly, the serenity of the Koishu Gardens was shattered by a loud crash. Kitaro turned. Before him, just a foot away, was the stupid blind beggar boy. Beside the stupid blind beggar boy were the remnants of what used to be Kitaro’s teapot and two cups, the sole possession of the Monk of the Fifth Order. “Bakka!” Kitaro shouted, his face turning a crimson radiance. “Bakka!” The Koishu Gardens, with their serenity of un-ness, remained unmoved. The upheaval of the world around never witnessed this episode. The sudden heaving; the blind fury directed at the beggar boy who was blind from birth, but who committed the unforgivable sin of being stupid, and showing that stupidity by shattering the sole material possession of the Monk of the Fifth Order, revealing how such a small matter, indeed, mattered to Kitaro.