Chapter 2. Hermits

Life in a ten-foot square hut

A flower needs only soil for its roots, and air for its branches. It takes only what it can use. Do you suppose the size of your house is what makes your soul worthy? To live in a small hut should not be difficult, since mind and heart live in even smaller spaces.

Phantom dwelling

Bashō patched his thatch and sat before its shadow talking with moonlight.


A mansion may have many rooms, but a body exists in only one at a time. The number of your rooms is seldom a measure of your generosity. It is well established that during a famine people will tear apart the temples to sell the materials for something to eat.


Spirit is not bounded by walls. Spirit is not taxed by the square foot. Spirit is not destroyed by earthquake, flood, or fire.


One who has no wings cannot fly. For this one, the flood drowns and the earthquake buries. As Jesus said, the son of man has no place to lay his head.


When I remember friends who have died, when I remember my mother and father, I think how little mere words matter, how little walls or fences or distance matter. I lose sleep, but not over others’ possessions. Unable to sleep, I step outside where raindrops are falling on everything I see and everything beyond, and then they are gone.


Having no family or companion are luxuries, for my needs are reduced to my means. I would not be free to play my lute or read the sutras or to live in a small hut if I had a wife and family or parents to care for. I know how fortunate I am.