The Thief Who Became a Disciple

Ancient Words of Wisdom

Zen Stories

The Thief Who Became a Disciple


One evening as Shichiri Kojun was reciting sutras a thief with a sharp sword entered, demanding either money or his life.

Shichiri told him: “Do not disturb me. You can find the money in that drawer.” Then he resumed his recitation.

A little while afterwards he stopped and called: “Don’t take it all. I need some to pay taxes with tomorrow.”

The intruder gathered up most of the money and started to leave. “Thank a person when you receive a gift,” Shichiri added. The man thanked him and made off.

A few days afterwards the fellow was caught and confessed, among others, the offence against Shichiri. When Shichiri was called as a witness he said: “This man is no thief, at least as far as I am concerned. I gave him money and he thanked me for it.”

After he had finished his prison term, the man went to Shichiri and became his disciple.

the way

Consider the core of the mind to be a wagon,

with will-power to be carried about in it.

Push it to a place where there can be failure,


there will be failure.

Push it to a place where there can be success,


there will be success.

But whether there is success or failure,

if one entrusts himself to the straightness of this wagon of the core of the mind,

he will attain right-mindedness in either case.

Severing oneself from desire and being like a rock or tree,

nothing will ever be achieved.

Not departing from desire,

but realizing a desireless right-mindedness –

this is the Way.

Takuan Soho

(1573 – 1645 ).

Takuan’s character and mastery of Zen impressed his fellow monks. At the unprecedented age of 36, Takuan was made abbot of the Daitokuji temple.

Takuan was able to apply Zen principals to many activities.  

He was an accomplished gardener, painter, calligrapher, tea master, poet (over 100 published poems), and author (six volumes of collected works). 

His writings to fencing master, Lord Yagyu Munenori, are commonly studied by contemporary martial artists.