Green Koans Case #31: Daito’s Raincoat

CASE #31: Daito’s Raincoat
Daito Kokushi wrote a short verse about the rain:

No umbrella, getting soaked,
I’ll just use the rain as my raincoat.

Daito Kokushi     A Japanese Zen master of the Rinzai sect, Daito (1282-1337) was the founder of Daitoku-ji Monastery, one of Japan’s most influential temples. Established as “National Teacher” by the Emperor, he was nevertheless an eccentric who lived for some time as a beggar under a bridge.
NOTE:    Daito’s poem is translated by Kenneth Kraft.

Centuries later, the poet Basho wrote a haiku that the Emperor’s beggar would have loved.

First rains of winter:
even the monkey wants
a little straw raincoat

Daito was miserable in the rain. The monkeys were miserable. Basho was miserable. But something strange happens when we learn to wear the weather like a coat.

We have so many problems in need of solving that it’s easy to forget that becoming one with a monkey solves them all. Most of the time we’d rather find our own solution. They never last for long. And they don’t work half so well as a monkey’s raincoat. Nevertheless, we persist.

“Monkey’s Raincoat”
Was the title of Basho’s
Great anthology—
It’s a kind of inside joke
Between the monkeys and him.


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Dominic Gomez's picture

In "Water the Flowers, Not the Weeds", Thomas Bien writes: "When you encounter something positive and healing, pause with it, lighting the lamp of your mindfulness to savor and appreciate it. If you notice the wonderful smell of the rain, for example, instead of just moving quickly past the experience without deeply appreciating it, you can prolong your contact with this wonderful sensation. Pause for a moment and really let yourself experience the smell of the rain."

Desirable karma, no? To be born lifetime after lifetime as a Mackintoshed Macaque!