There are no ghosts except those that haunt the human mind

An old Zen Abbot and his attendant, while on a journey, stopped at a small inn. In the evening they talked and the innkeeper asked the priest about ghosts. The abbot said “There are no ghosts except those that haunt the human mind.” The master was a bit annoyed at this as ghosts had been seen in the neighbourhood, but the abbot would not give way, and soon went to bed.

Still rankling at his defeat, the innkeeper said to his daughter: “In the night, you go and steal into his room, go up to his bed and hold his hand. Then I and one of the others will burst in with lights and discover you. He will be humiliated.” The daughter said “I couldn’t do anything like that”

The innkeeper said, “Is a silver piece any good to you?”

The daughter said, “Oh well of course, I am your daughter and I have to do what you say”.


So in the middle of the night she crept into the abbot’s room, came up to his bed and took his hand.

The abbot sat up and shouted “Ghosts! Ghosts! Bring lights!”

In a shame-faced way the innkeeper brought light and confessed to trying to trap the abbot into an indiscretion.

The abbot said ” That does not matter but we must get rid of the ghost by saying the mantra of the Buddha of Infinite Light: Namu Amida Butsu – reverence to the Buddha of Light.

So the abbot, his attendant, the innkeeper and his daughter, and the other staff member sat there chanting the mantra quietly. After about an hour, the innkeeper thought it would end there but they went on and on, keeping up the low chant until dawn. The abbot and his attendant began to pack their things to move on, with the farewell comment ” You will surely be rid of the ghosts now.”

© 1998 Trevor Leggett

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