Friday, October 14, 2005

St. Francis and Wonhyo

Inspired by a recent post I saw at Dr. Hodges's blog, I offer the following:

From The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi by Saint Bonaventure:

St. Francis and the Leper

And so by the practice of frequent prayer, the vehement flame of heavenly desires increased daily within him, and already, for the love of his celestial country, he despised all earthly things, as if they existed not; for he knew that he had found the hidden treasure, and like a prudent merchant he considered within himself how to sell all that he had to make it his own. But he knew not yet how he was to purchase it, nor what he was to give for it; only it seemed to be made known to him that the spiritual merchant must begin with the contempt of the world, and that the soldier of Christ must begin by victory over himself.

Now, as he was riding one day over the plain of Assisi he met a leper, whose sudden appearance filled him with fear and horror; but forthwith calling to mind the resolution which he had made to follow after perfection, and remembering that if he would be a soldier of Christ he must first overcome himself, he dismounted from his horse and went to meet the leper, that he might embrace him: and when the poor man stretched out his hand to receive an alms, he kissed it and filled it with money. Having again mounted his horse, he looked around him over the wide and open plain, but nowhere could he see the leper; upon which, being filled with wonder and joy, he began devoutly to give thanks to God...

And this, adapted from an email I wrote some time ago:

Wonhyo sunim and the Skull

While traveling to China to study Buddhism there, Wonhyo, a Korean Buddhist monk, crawled into a cave to rest. The journey had been arduous thus far, and Wonhyo was parched. It was night, and he had only the moonlight to see by. Miraculously, he found a perfect bowl of water, and slaked his thirst with it. The water was clean and pure and delightful.

The next morning, Wonhyo awoke to discover that the cave he'd chosen was full of skeletons, and the "bowl" had been none other than a human skull. He vomited in disgust, but suddenly had a moment of realization: the water had been wonderful when he hadn't known about the true nature of its container, and disgusting only once he'd known he'd been drinking out of a skull. Such dualities-- wonderful/disgusting, etc.-- reside in the mind. Wonhyo further realized that he had no need to go to China to explore such a truth, since it was already contained inside his own skull.


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