A teacher one time shouted late at night in the monastery lavatory, “Catch the thief! Catch the thief!” In the dark, he ran into a monk, grabbed him by the chest and held him, saying “Caught him! Caught him!” The monk cried, “Master, it is not me!” The teacher responded, “It is, but you just won’t own up to it.”

~ The Blue Cliff Record, Case 96, Commentary

A few weeks ago, early in the still-dark morning, I was sound asleep when I heard from outside the open window a loud cry: “Hey! Hey!” I bolted awake and looked out into the blackness, feeling my body tighten with the alarm. I yelled over to our neighbor to see if everything was ok. Going out to walk his dogs, he had surprised a thief who was trying to break into his car. The thief ran away before the police came. There has been an upturn in property crime in the county over the last year, and it has been weighing on my mind.

But putting aside for a moment perfectly reasonable concerns about causation, safety and loss, where is the thief right now? The above teacher, Tzu Hu, would also shout at newcomers to his monastery, “Look out for the dog!”, and then turn and walk away.

In a world where not one thing is out of place ~ this world we live in ~ it does not mean thievery is good or even acceptable. For the victims, it can be pretty painful. Yet this world, fundamentally, does not require any explaining whatsoever. And because of that, all things in that world are free.

I guess, then, you don’t mind if I steal from you the sun, moon, stars? I’ll bring them back; promise.