One day a fisherman saw him walking on the beach soon after a storm.
The storm had washed up thousands of starfish on the shore, and they were beginning to dry up. Soon all of them would be dead. Ryokan was picking up starfish and throwing them into the sea.
The fisherman caught up with the teacher and said, “Surely, you cannot hope to throw all these starfish back into the sea? They will die in their thousands here. I’ve seen it happen before. Your effort will make no difference.”
“It will to this one,” said Ryokan, throwing back another starfish into the sea.