Is That So?


My favorite passage in Eckhart Tolle’s ‘A New Earth’ is a chapter called “Is That So?”

I found this writing very powerful. Leave it to a Zen Master to give us a powerful insight into mastering the ego.

Here is how the story goes …..

The Zen Master Hakuin lived in a town in Japan. He was a well respected Zen Master and many people came to see him for spiritual teaching. Then it happened that the teenage daughter of his next-door neighbor became pregnant. When being questioned by her angry parents as to the identity of the father, she finally told them that he was Hakuin, the Zen Master.

The angry parents rushed over to Hakuin and told him with much shouting and accusing that their daughter had confessed that he was the father. All he replied was, ” Is that so? “

News of the scandal spread throughout the town. The Master lost his reputation. This did not trouble him. Nobody came to see him anymore. He remained unmoved. When the child was born, the parents brought the baby to Hakuin. “You are the father, so you look afte him.” The Master took loving care of the child. A year later, the mother remorsefully confessed to her parents that the real father of the child was the young man who worked at the butcher shop.

In great distress they went to see Hakuin to apologize and ask for forgiveness. “We are really sorry. We have come to take the baby back. Our daughter confessed that you are not the father.” “Is that so?” is all he would say as he handed the baby over to them.

The Master responded to bad news and good news, in exactly the same way: “Is that so?” He allows the form of the moment, good or bad, to be as it is and so does not become a participant in human drama. Events are not personalized. He is nobody’s victim. Only if you resist what happens are you at the mercy of what happens, and the world will determine your happiness and unhappiness.

Imagine briefly how the ego would have reacted during the various stages of the unfolding of these events. How did you react to this story? What emotions did you experience? Now imagine yourself reacting as the Zen Master Hakiun reacted to this situation.

Is there a situation in your life right now that is consumed by the ego? Could you say “Is That So?”

Practice this new reality. Live in the moment and practice the art of non resistance. When you become friendly with the moment, life becomes friendly toward you: people become helpful, circumstances cooperative.

Ultimately as Eckhart Tolle says, the decision to make the present moment into your friend is the end of the ego. The ego can never be in alignment with the present moment. Time is what the ego lives on.

There are many valuable lessons in Ekhart Tolle’s A New Earth.

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