"A beautiful, ancient part of Zen practice is takahatsu. This is the time when monks put on straw sandals, wear straw hats with large brims, form a line and go on foot, one behind the other, down into the villages with their begging bowls. The villagers can hear the monks coming from a distance as they chant 'Ho, ho, ho' over and over again.

"When the villagers hear the chanting, they know the monks are coming to receive offerings. The monks never ask directly. They simply stand with their begging bowls chanting. When a villager comes to make an offering, the monk and villager bow to one another at the same time. Due to the large straw hat the monk is wearing, he cannot see who is making the offering, nor can the person see the face of the monk. The giving and receiving are done anonymously. The giver does not become inflated, thinking how wonderful it is that he gives. The one who receives is not shamed, feeling he is needy. The monk is giving the villager the gift of having an opportunity to share. The villager is providing sustenance for the monk who chants, meditates and cares for him. There is no separation; in this moment, the giver and receiver become one. Indeed, if we go a little deeper, we can even ask, what is it that really belongs to us? What is the true gift being given?

"As I watched the monks wind their way down the hill, I knew that I'd received a gift that went beyond anything I was deserving of. And I knew the deeper question was, how would I ever repay it? What could I give back in return?"

"Touching one another
Each becomes
A pebble of the world. "
— Soen Roshi