A student once asked
"Master, what is enlightenment?"
The master replied,
"When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep."
Empty Your Cup
university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the
master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master
poured the visitor's cup to the brim, and then kept pouring.
professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer
overfull! No more will go in!" the professor blurted.
are like this cup," the master replied, "How can I show you
Zen unless you first empty your cup."
Two men were arguing
about a flag flapping in the wind.
"It's the wind
that is really moving," stated the first one.
"No, it is the
flag that is moving," contended the second.
A Zen master, who
happened to be walking by, overheard the debate and interrupted them.
"Neither the flag
nor the wind is moving," he said, "It is MIND that
It Will Pass
A student went to his
meditation teacher and said, "My meditation is horrible! I feel
so distracted, or my legs ache, or I'm constantly falling asleep. It's
just horrible!" "It will pass," the teacher said
A week later, the
student came back to his teacher. "My meditation is wonderful! I
feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It's just wonderful!'
the teacher replied matter-of-factly.
Word spread across the
countryside about the wise Holy Man who lived in a small house atop
the mountain. A man from the village decided to make the long and
difficult journey to visit him.
When he arrived at the
house, he saw an old servant inside who greeting him at the door.
"I would like to
see the wise Holy Man," he said to the servant.
The servant smiled and
led him inside. As they walked through the house, the man from the
village looked eagerly around the house, anticipating his encounter
with the Holy Man.
Before he knew it, he
had been led to the back door and escorted outside. He stopped and
turned to the servant,
"But I want to see
the Holy Man!"
have," said the old man. "Everyone you may meet in life,
even if they appear plain and insignificant... see each of them as a
wise Holy Man. If you do this, then whatever problem you brought here
today will be solved."
I Don't Know
The emperor, who was a
devout Buddhist, invited a great Zen master to the Palace in order to
ask him questions about Buddhism.
"What is the
highest truth of the holy Buddhist doctrine?" the emperor
and not a trace of holiness," the master replied.
"If there is no
holiness," the emperor said, "then who or what are
"I do not
know," the master replied.
Is That So?
A beautiful girl in the
village was pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who was the
father. At first resistant to confess, the anxious and embarrassed
girl finally pointed to Hakuin, the Zen master whom everyone
previously revered for living such a pure life. When the outraged
parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter's accusation, he simply
replied "Is that so?"
When the child was
born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who now was viewed as a
pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the
child since it was his responsibility. "Is that so?" Hakuin
said calmly as he accepted the child.
For many months he took
very good care of the child until the daughter could no longer
withstand the lie she had told. She confessed that the real father was
a young man in the village whom she had tried to protect. The parents
immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With
profuse apologies they explained what had happened. "Is that
so?" Hakuin said as he handed them the child.
A priest was in charge
of the garden within a famous Zen temple. He had been given the job
because he loved the flowers, shrubs, and trees. Next to the temple
there was another, smaller temple where there lived a very old Zen
One day, when the
priest was expecting some special guests, he took extra care in
tending to the garden. He pulled the weeds, trimmed the shrubs, combed
the moss, and spent a long time meticulously raking up and carefully
arranging all the dry autumn leaves. As he worked, the old master
watched him with interest from across the wall that separated the
When he had finished,
the priest stood back to admire his work. "Isn't it
beautiful," he called out to the old master. "Yes,"
replied the old man, "but there is something missing. Help me
over this wall and I'll put it right for you."
After hesitating, the
priest lifted the old fellow over and set him down. Slowly, the master
walked to the tree near the center of the garden, grabbed it by the
trunk, and shook it. Leaves showered down all over the garden.
"There," said the old man, "you can put me back
There is a Taoist story
of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his
horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.
luck," they said sympathetically.
the farmer replied.
The next morning the
horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.
wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.
replied the old man.
The following day, his
son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his
leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his
answered the farmer.
The day after, military
officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing
that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors
congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
said the farmer.
a great short movie based on the story, please watch
The Nature of Things
Two monks were washing
their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was
drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank.
In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and
again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again
The other monk asked
him, "Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you
know it's nature is to sting?"
the monk replied, "to save it is my nature."
Working Very Hard
A martial arts student
went to his teacher and said earnestly, "I am devoted to studying
your martial system. How long will it take me to master it."
The teacher's reply was
casual, "Ten years."
student answered, "But I want to master it faster than that. I
will work very hard. I will practice everyday, ten or more hours a day
if I have to. How long will it take then?"
The teacher thought for
The Moon Cannot Be Stolen
A Zen Master lived the
simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One
evening, while he was away, a thief sneaked into the hut only to find
there was nothing in it to steal.
The Zen Master returned
and found him. "You have come a long way to visit me," he
told the prowler, "and you should not return empty handed. Please
take my clothes as a gift."
The thief was
bewildered, but he took the clothes and ran away.
The Master sat naked,
watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, " I wish I
could give him this beautiful moon."
A famous spiritual
teacher came to the front door of the King's palace. None of the
guards tried to stop him as he entered and made his way to where the
King himself was sitting on his throne.
"What do you
want?" asked the King, immediately recognizing the visitor.
"I would like a
place to sleep in this inn,"
replied the teacher.
"But this is not
an inn," said the King,
"It is my palace."
"May I ask who
owned this palace before you?"
"My father. He is
"And who owned it
He too is dead."
"And this place
where people live for a short time and then move on - did I hear you
say that it is NOT an inn?"
During the civil wars
in feudal Japan, an invading army would quickly sweep into a town and
take control. In one particular village, everyone fled just before the
army arrived - everyone except the Zen master.
Curious about this old
fellow, the general went to the temple to see for himself what kind of
man this master was.
When he wasn't treated
with the deference and submissiveness to which he was accustomed, the
general burst into anger.
he shouted as he reached for his sword, "don't you realize you
are standing before a man who could run you through without blinking
But despite the threat,
the master seemed unmoved.
"And do you
realize," the master replied calmly, "that you are standing
before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?"
Surprising the Master
The students in the
monastery were in total awe of the elder monk, not because he was
strict, but because nothing ever seemed to upset or ruffle him. So
they found him a bit unearthly and even frightening.
One day they decided to
put him to a test. A bunch of them very quietly hid in a dark corner
of one of the hallways, and waited for the monk to walk by. Within
moments, the old man appeared, carrying a cup of hot tea. Just as he
passed by, the students all rushed out at him screaming as loud as
But the monk showed no
reaction whatsoever. He peacefully made his way to a small table at
the end of the hall, gently placed the cup down, and then, leaning
against the wall, cried out with shock, "Ohhhhh!"
Chuang Tzu and a friend were walking by a river.
at the fish swimming about," said Chuang Tzu, "They are
really enjoying themselves."
are not a fish," replied the friend, "So you can't truly
know that they are enjoying themselves."
are not me," said Chuang Tzu. "So how do you know that I do
not know that the fish are enjoying themselves?"
letter to you