Oct 27, 2020
Martin Goodson

The Liberation of Having No Options

Stories from the life of Zen Master Daiyu Myokyo

More choice is often peddled as always being better, more freeing, however it brings with it attachment and paralysis, even despair. Not having an option can be liberating and ceases to split desire pitting one against the other.

Winter in Japan


Uploaded by Rose Pink on Pinterest

After Ven. Myokyo-ni was accepted as a sanzen student by Sesso Roshi, the Lord High Abbot of Daitoku-ji, the pace of her training stepped up considerably. She had to rise in the middle of the night to attend the first sanzen period of the day and in the cold Japanese winter this was a real test of aspiration in itself. Ven. Myokyo-ni had always felt the cold and would hug the stove heater in her little flat until the last possible moment before dashing down the hill to the monastery gates. She remarked however that once through the gates the concern over cold dropped away because there was simply no option any more. She said this experience taught her a lot about how we go about exacerbating our difficulties by clinging to our (‘my’) wishes.

In the southern tradition the Buddha upon his Awakening pronounces that he has seen the ‘builder of the house’ and that with the ridgepole now broken never will he build houses again. This builder of houses is the same as the picture maker. Inevitably with things we like and dislike ‘I’ build pictures around them. Ven. Myokyo-ni often talked about her own experience of this. She had built up a most beautiful mosaic about what Zen and Buddhism was all about. Whilst training in Japan that mosaic had to be taken apart piece by piece with her own hand until it collapsed. A few tears were shed along the way but there was too little left to support it. Once our illusions are gone suddenly the seeing is clear. The fullness of life, no longer obstructed, floods in and the heart responds with an outpouring of warmth.

Venerable Myokyo-ni always stressed the importance of good form and the fact that the Zen training simply cannot be effective – “will not go” - without it. She tirelessly pointed out how the body itself contains a wisdom of which ‘I’ am simply not aware.

Ven. Myokyo-ni took a little flat near Daitoku-ji temple. In typical Japanese style it comprised two little rooms, one above the other. The space was cramped and the bathroom was also very small. She found that every time she bent over the washbasin she banged the small of her back on the doorknob behind her. This happened a number of times until she was black and blue. At one point she seriously considered giving up the place but it was so conveniently situated she was reluctant to do so. Some time later she had some visitors who stayed with her and after a couple of days one said “How do you manage in such cramped rooms? I continually crack my back against the door knob in the bathroom.” Suddenly she remembered how she too had done this, but it hadn’t happened for quite some time. At that moment she realised that without her conscious knowledge the body had adapted to the cramped circumstances and no longer suffered from them.

Dharma Centre

We have just launched our online Dharma Centre. All are welcome...

Join our Community!


The virtue of generosity, charity or giving. Your donations are welcomed.

Learn more