The thief left it behind:
at my window.
This is a haiku from the poet, Ryokan. Ryokan lived in the late 18th century in Japan. He was a Zen Master and a hermit. There’s a story behind this lovely little poem.
One evening Ryokan comes home to find a thief in his humble hovel ransacking the place—looking for anything valuable and taking anything he could find. Ryokan startles the thief and chases him out of his house. Ryokan returns to his hut to find that the only thing left is a little cushion. According to the story, Ryokan grabs the cushion and runs after the thief shouting, “You forgot this, you left something—take this too!”
Ryokan walks back home and sits on the bare floor of his hut — without a single possession to his name and he writes this haiku. The moon is a common metaphor, especially among the Zen poets, representing an enlightened mind, truth and awareness. In his poem, Ryokan is pondering the absurdity of the theft. “The thief left it behind,” since he foolishly couldn’t recognize the one great treasure the poor monk possessed, “the moon” or his enlightenment and instead, left with an armful of junk.
I love this powerful little poem. It reminds me that no matter the conditions of life, we can always feel at rest in a mind rich in awareness, gratitude and peace.