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Gessen's Attitude Of Non Attachment

To be free of attachment is the sign of a true monk. A short Zen story illustrates the truth.

Gessan, the Zen monk was an artist. He demanded a huge amount as a fee from his clients even before he commenced his work. In due course he came to be known as the 'Stingy Artist'

A geisha once approached him for a painting to be done. Gessen enquired, “How much will you pay me?"

“Whatever you demand, but you should paint in my presence" said the girl.

Gessen agreed and one day, Gessen was summoned by the girl to paint during the feast that she was holding for her patron.

Gessen completed the work and he was paid an exorbitant amount that he charged.The girl then turned to her patron and said 'The picture of this artist may be fine, however his mind is dirty with greed for money. Hence his painting is only fit to be for one of my petticoats. It is not fit for an exhibition!"

Saying so she gave her petticoat and asked Gessen to paint another on the back of it.

Gessen asked, “How much will you pay me?"

“On whatever you ask," said the girl.

Gessen as usual asked for a fancy amount and did the painting as per her request and left.

Later it was revealed that Gessen, stocked grains in his warehouse unknown to anyone in order to battle the sudden outbursts of famine. Secondly he wanted to repair the road to the National shrine which had worn out, making it difficult for people to traverse. Thirdly Gessen wanted to build a temple which was the wish of his teacher who died without realising it. These were the reasons for Gessen to charge heavily for his art works.

Once when all the three objectives were met, Gessen abandoned his brush and his painting materials and retired to the mountains never to paint again!

Story first published: Wednesday, April 21, 2010, 14:07 [IST]
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