the businessless person

“As I see it, there isn’t so much to do. Just be ordinary – put on your robes, eat your food, and pass the time doing nothing.” These are wise words from Chinese Zen Master Linji, the founder of the Rinzai school of Zen. Linji invented the term “businessless person” as his explanation for what the ideal person could be. This was a person who wasn’t striving after anything, not even the Buddha or enlightenment. When I came across this teaching, I recognized parallels with my own personality. I sometimes want to be that businessless person. I sometimes want to escape all the demands that are put upon me and just stop. I would like to live like a wandering monk, living on whatever came my way, desiring nothing, living a life of quiet contemplation. There is a character in Hermann Hesse’s novel Magister Ludi (The Glass Bead Game) named Elder Brother, who has built his own little bamboo grove and spends his days in isolation and contemplation, mastering the yarrow-stalk divination technique of the I Ching. The idea of the businessless person is in direct opposition to the world in which we live. If you aspire to “do nothing” you must have a serious character flaw. But I think this would be a totally liberating way to live, and I admit that sometimes I daydream about just such an existence.


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