Who Is My Neighbor?
Just then a man learned in the Torah stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What do you read in the Torah?” He answered, “You should love Yahweh with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might, and you should love your neighbor as yourself.” And Jesus said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Luke 10:25-29, New Revised Standard Version (paraphrased)
Rain poured down from the heavens. It was a horrible night to be out. Anyone out in it for more than a minute would soon be smothered with moist heat that failed to distinguish between rain-soaked fabric and sweat-drenched skin.
Brother Makoto hurried along the narrow path on his way back to the temple from blessing a new business. People were so tiresome and demanding of his time. These stupid blessing ceremonies were draining. He had to endure bowing and scraping and abject thanks for shaking some incense around and muttering a few words, and for what? Was the increase of commerce really the Buddha’s concern, or his? Was that what the Buddha wanted them to spend their time on at the expense of learning and reciting sutras and teaching people how they could avoid life’s suffering?
The raindrops hit the top of his bald head and rolled down his face, obscuring his view. If he’d realized how bad the weather would be, he’d have brought an umbrella. The sandals he wore on his otherwise bare feet made squishing noises and if he wasn’t careful, he’d stray off the path into the mud.
His cell was simple, plain, and barren, as prescribed by the monastic code, but at least it was dry and comfortable in comparison to this downpour. Acutely uncomfortable, and anxious to return to his dry cell and warm futon, he barely noticed the bloody figure sprawled across his path until he heard a moan.
He looked only long enough to realize that it was a human being making those noises before stepping over the man’s feet and continuing on his way. He could tell from the sounds that the man was gravely injured. He had no medical training. If he intervened, it surely would be troublesome to him and the man would die anyway. Why get all bloody and dirty when the outcome was clear? He’d be more helpful to someone with questions about Buddhist practice or ritual. He had no time to waste or thoughts to spare for this poor soul who was bleeding out in front of him.
He didn’t even notice the power limiters on the man’s ears.
Shortly afterward, a novice named Po walked down the same path as Brother Makoto from the other direction. He’d snuck out of a different monastery than Brother Makoto’s. As the then-capital of China, Chang’an was full to the brim with monasteries and temples.
Po had visited a bar and, to his shame, gone home with a woman he met there. His robes smelled of sweat, sex, and liquor. He was beginning to regret ever having left the temple grounds. At the time, he’d thought it would relieve the stress and anxiety he felt every day, but all he felt was numb and disappointed. He hoped he’d be able to climb the fence and slip inside the temple compound without being caught.
Po stumbled and almost fell over an obstacle blocking his pathway. People were idiots. Surely they could see that leaving something partway across a walkway was sure to cause accidents and injuries? How careless and inconsiderate.
Once he halted and took a better look, he realized that this moaning lump was a gravely injured man. The smell of blood penetrated the fog of his inebriation and he noticed the oozing blood. Some of the man’s innards were strewn across the path next to his body. He also wore youkai power limiters on his exposed left ear.
Po’s reaction to the strewn guts was to begin puking his guts out too. Surely no one expected him to make himself ill trying to help this creature? Besides, his older sister had been raped and killed by youkai scum. The Buddha preached compassion, but surely he only meant compassion for fellow humans, not beasts like youkai.
It was all well and good to avoid hurting or killing non-human creatures that did you no harm, like the spiders that crawled along the windowsill, but surely there was no requirement that he help a member of a race responsible for slaughtering his sister. Besides, this creature’s injuries were probably the result of some bloody quarrel among youkai and therefore none of his business.
He had to save his own skin. He’d be kicked out of the monastery in disgrace if he were caught violating his vows and the precepts like this. He could do so much good in the world if only he made it through his training.
So he skirted around the prone figure, hands over his mouth to try to keep from regurgitating some more, and made his unsteady way home.
The man moaned some more, but whether in disappointment at not being rescued or in anger at not being dead yet was not clear.
A few minutes later, a tall, gangly man came waltzing up the path, whistling. The whistling made him seem more cheerful than he really was. For this man had prematurely left the gambling hall where he’d been on his way to winning a sizeable amount, all because some ignorant girl had complimented his red hair and eyes.
You’d think that a dashing and handsome devil like him would be pleased to be complimented by a wet and willing female like her - after all, the number and variety of his conquests were legendary – but those very words had driven him away because the features she praised were the sign of his status as a half-human, half-youkai child of taboo. As such, he wasn’t truly accepted anywhere, whether among humans or youkai.
He came to a complete halt when he saw the body blocking the path. His first thought was: Way to go to block the path like that. But then he noticed that this wasn’t your usual drunken reveler who’d fallen down and hadn’t bothered to get up.
The man’s guts were spattered all over the path. Gojyo had never before realized quite how lengthy and extensive the human digestive tract was.
He nudged the man’s leg with the toe of his boots and asked, “You dead down there?”
He saw the man twitch and heard him moan. Not dead yet, then. The man looked up at him and smiled bleakly.
Somehow, the bleak smile made Gojyo’s own guts do a backflip. He couldn’t leave this man here on the pathway to die alone. He began shoving the man’s guts back into his body, trying his best not to shove dirt and debris in with them. The man moaned occasionally, but whether in pain or an attempt to communicate, he couldn’t tell.
As he was busy bloodying his hands with the man’s entrails, he noticed three power limiters on the man’s left ear. So he was youkai, then, not human.
But what did that matter to him? He didn’t fit in well in either human or youkai society, but he flirted with and bedded human women and the youkai Banri had been his benefactor and roommate for a time. Far be it for him to judge.
Guts returned to their original location as best as he could manage, he hefted and slung the man over his shoulder and half-carried, half-dragged him home.
When he reached his house, he laid the man on the couch and washed and bandaged the man’s wounds as best he could. He then carried him into his bedroom and laid him on the bed, arranging the covers over him before he left to find a doctor to treat him.
He returned from dragging the nearest doctor willing to treat youkai out of bed, not sure whether the man would still be alive when they returned. But he was.
The doctor fussed over his patient’s wounds and told Gojyo to let the man rest and not to smoke in the house while he was still unconscious. When asked, he said that it would take at least a month for his patient to fully recuperate from his injuries. Gojyo paid him for his services with that night’s gambling winnings.
Gojyo kept an on and off vigil at the man’s bedside for a week before he woke up, neither of them yet realizing how much their lives had already changed just because of this one act of kindness and compassion.
Jesus asked, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robber and was injured?” The expert in the Torah said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 10:36-37 (NRSV) (paraphrased).
A/N: The reason Gojyo is particularly appropriately cast as the Good Samaritan, and a point lost on modern readers, is that the Jews of Jesus’ time considered Samaritans outcasts and heretics.