THE COMPASSION OF MASTERS*** I HAVE HEARD about a very great Zen Master who had become very old and almost blind at the age of ninety-six, and he was no longer able to teach or work about the monastery. Yamamoto was his name. THE OLD MAN THEN DECIDED IT WAS TIME TO DIE because he was of no use to anybody. He could not be of any help, so he stopped eating. When asked by his monks why he refused his food, he replied that he had outlived his usefulness and was only a bother to everybody. They told him, “If you die now” — it was January — “when it is so cold, everybody will be uncomfortable at your funeral and you will be an even greater nuisance. So please eat!” This can happen only in a Zen monastery, because disciples love the Master so deeply — their respect is so deep that there is no need for any formality. Just see what they are saying: they are saying, “If you die now and it is January, see… It is so cold, everybody will be uncomfortable at the funeral and you will be an even greater nuisance! So please eat!” He thereupon resumed eating. But when it became warm again, he stopped, and not long after quietly toppled over and died. SUCH COMPASSION! One lives, then for compassion, one dies, then for compassion. One is even ready to choose a right time to die, so that nobody is bothered and one need not be a nuisance.