traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman. Wary of
the current, she asked if they could carry her across. One of the
monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up onto his
shoulders, transported her across the water, and put her down on the
other bank. She thanked him and departed.
monks continued on their way, the one was brooding and preoccupied.
Unable to hold his silence, he spoke out.
our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but
you picked that one up on your shoulders and carried her!"
the second monk replied,
"I set her down on the other side, while you are still carrying
great Taoist master Chuang Tzu once dreamt that he was a butterfly
fluttering here and there. In the dream he had no awareness of his
individuality as a person. He was only a butterfly. Suddenly, he awoke
and found himself laying there, a person once again.
then he thought to himself,
I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a
butterfly who dreams about being a man?"
Not Dead Yet
Emperor asked Master Gudo,
happens to a man of enlightenment after death?"
should I know?" replied Gudo.
you are a master," answered the Emperor.
sir," said Gudo, "but not a dead one."
Going with the Flow
Taoist story tells of an old man who accidentally fell into the river
rapids leading to a high and dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for
his life. Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed downstream at
the bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive.
accommodated myself to the water, not the water to me. Without
thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the
swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived."
Chasing Two Rabbits
martial arts student approached his teacher with a question.
like to improve my knowledge of the martial arts. In addition to
learning from you, I'd like to study with another teacher in order to
learn another style. What do you think of this idea?"
hunter who chases two rabbits," answered the master,
"catches neither one."
hermit was meditating by a river when a young man interrupted him.
"Master, I wish to become your disciple," said the man.
"Why?" replied the hermit. The young man thought for a
moment. "Because I want to find God."
master jumped up, grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, dragged him
into the river, and plunged his head under water. After holding him
there for a minute, with him kicking and struggling to free himself,
the master finally pulled him up out of the river. The young man
coughed up water and gasped to get his breath.
eventually quieted down, the master spoke. "Tell me, what did you
want most of all when you were under water."
answered the man.
well," said the master. "Go home and come back to me when
you want God as much as you just wanted air."
a momentous battle, a Japanese general decided to attack even though
his army was greatly outnumbered. He was confident they would win, but
his men were filled with doubt. On the way to the battle, they stopped
at a religious shrine. After praying with the men, the general took
out a coin and said,
shall now toss this coin. If it is heads, we shall win. If tails, we
shall lose. Destiny will now reveal itself."
threw the coin into the air and all watched intently as it landed. It
was heads. The soldiers were so overjoyed and filled with confidence
that they vigorously attacked the enemy and were victorious. After the
battle, a lieutenant remarked to the general,
one can change destiny."
right," the general replied as he showed the lieutenant the coin,
which had heads on both sides.
there was a well known philosopher and scholar who devoted himself to
the study of Zen for many years.
day that he finally attained enlightenment, he took all of his books
out into the yard, and burned them all.
More Is Not Enough
was once a stone cutter who was dissatisfied with himself and with his
position in life. One day he passed a wealthy merchant's house.
Through the open gateway, he saw many fine possessions and important
visitors. "How powerful that merchant must be!" thought the
stone cutter. He became very envious and wished that he could be like
great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more
luxuries and power than he had ever imagined, but envied and detested
by those less wealthy than himself. Soon a high official passed by,
carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants and escorted by
soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow
low before the procession. "How powerful that official is!"
he thought. "I wish that I could be a high official!"
became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan
chair, feared and hated by the people all around. It was a hot summer
day, so the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan
chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky,
unaffected by his presence. "How powerful the sun is!" he
thought. "I wish that I could be the sun!"
became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the
fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud
moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer
shine on everything below. "How powerful that storm cloud
is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a cloud!"
became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by
everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some
great force, and realized that it was the wind. "How powerful it
is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the wind!"
became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting
trees, feared and hated by all below him. But after a while, he ran up
against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he
blew against it - a huge, towering rock. "How powerful that rock
is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a rock!"
became the rock, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he
stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the
hard surface, and felt himself being changed. "What could be more
powerful than I, the rock?" he thought.
looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stone cutter.
Sounds of Silence
monks decided to meditate silently without speaking for two weeks. By
nightfall on the first day, the candle began to flicker and then went
first monk said, "Oh, no! The candle is out."
second monk said, "Aren't we not suppose to talk?"
third monk said, "Why must you two break the silence?"
fourth monk laughed and said, "Ha! I'm the only one who didn't
Teacher saw five of his students return from the market, riding their
bicycles. When they had dismounted, the teacher asked the students,
are you riding your bicycles?"
first student replied, "The bicycle is carrying this sack of
potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!"
teacher praised the student, saying, "You are a smart boy. When
you grow old, you will not walk hunched over, as I do."
second student replied, "I love to watch the trees and fields
pass by as I roll down the path."
teacher commended the student, "Your eyes are open and you see
third student replied, "When I ride my bicycle, I am
content to chant, nam myoho renge kyo."
teacher gave praise to the third student, "Your mind will roll
with the ease of a newly trued wheel."
fourth student answered, "Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony
with all beings."
teacher was pleased and said, "You are riding on the golden path
fifth student replied, "I ride my bicycle to ride my
teacher went and sat at the feet of the fifth student, and said,
"I am your disciple."
The Gift of Insults
once lived a great warrior. Though quite old, he still was able to
defeat any challenger. His reputation extended far and wide throughout
the land and many students gathered to study under him.
an infamous young warrior arrived at the village. He was determined to
be the first man to defeat the great master. Along with his strength,
he had an uncanny ability to spot and exploit any weakness in an
opponent. He would wait for his opponent to make the first move, thus
revealing a weakness, and then would strike with merciless force and
lightning speed. No one had ever lasted with him in a match beyond the
first move. Much against the advice of his concerned students, the old
master gladly accepted the young warrior's challenge.
two squared off for battle, the young warrior began to hurl insults at
the old master. He threw dirt and spit in his face. For hours he
verbally assaulted him with every curse and insult known to mankind.
But the old warrior merely stood there motionless and calm. Finally,
the young warrior exhausted himself. Knowing he was defeated, he
justify feeling shamed.
disappointed that he did not fight the insolent youth, the students
gathered around the old master and questioned him. "How could you
endure such an indignity? How did you drive him away?"
someone comes to give you a gift and you do not receive it," the
master replied, "to whom does the gift belong?"
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