Manual Zen: Tales From the Journey

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Furthermore, what of the one who preaches without enlightenment? He is killing Buddhism. Be wary of travel companions who speak one way and act another. They can inadvertently kill a trip faster than you think. Learn how to execute your escape. A lord asked Takuan, a Zen teacher, to suggest how he might pass the time. He felt his days very long attending his office and sitting stiffly to receive the homage of others. Not twice this day Inch time foot gem. This day will not come again.

Each minute is worth a priceless gem. No matter how uncomfortable the bus ride, how horrendous the airline food, or how saggy the bed, remember: The pupils of the Tendai school used to study meditation before Zen entered Japan. Four of them who were intimate friends promised one another to observe seven days of silence. On the first day all were silent. Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but when night came and the oil lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help exclaiming to a servant: The second pupils was surprised to hear the first one talk.

Why did you talk? Never be too quick to judge others. Hogen, a Chinese Zen teacher, lived alone in a small temple in the country. One day four traveling monks appeared and asked if they might make a fire in his yard to warm themselves. While they were building the fire, Hogen heard them arguing about subjectivity and objectivity. He joined them and said: Do you consider it to be inside or outside your mind?

One of the monks replied: With everyone jumping on the law of attraction bandwagon The Secret anyone? Ikkyu, the Zen master, was very clever even as a boy. Can't you show me anything else? The student moved in and the Roshi waved the remaining portion of the banana before the student's face. The student prostrated, and left. A second student rose to address the audience. Are there any questions? You have shown us something that I am not sure I understand. Books Once there was a well known philosopher and scholar who devoted himself to the study of Zen for many years.

On the day that he finally attained enlightenment, he took all of his books out into the yard, and burned them all. Masterpiece A master calligrapher was writing some characters onto a piece of paper. One of his especially perceptive students was watching him. When the calligrapher was finished, he asked for the student's opinion - who immediately told him that it wasn't any good. The master tried again, but the student criticized the work again. Over and over, the calligrapher carefully redrew the same characters, and each time the student rejected it.

Finally, when the student had turned his attention away to something else and wasn't watching, the master seized the opportunity to quickly dash off the characters. The student turned to look.

Zen Tales Collection

Legend states this is the story behind master Kosen's creation of an ink template that was used to create the wood carving "The First Principle" that appears over the gate of Obaku Temple in Kyoto. Searching for Buddha A monk set off on a long pilgrimage to find the Buddha. He devoted many years to his search until he finally reached the land where the Buddha was said to live.

While crossing the river to this country, the monk looked around as the boatman rowed. He noticed something floating towards them. As it got closer, he realized that it was the corpse of a person. When it drifted so close that he could almost touch it, he suddenly recognized the dead body - it was his own! He lost all control and wailed at the sight of himself, still and lifeless, drifting along the river's currents. That moment was the beginning of his liberation. The Present Moment A Japanese warrior was captured by his enemies and thrown into prison. That night he was unable to sleep because he feared that the next day he would be interrogated, tortured, and executed.

Then the words of his Zen master came to him, "Tomorrow is not real. It is an illusion. The only reality is now. Practice Makes Perfect A dramatic ballad singer studied under a strict teacher who insisted that he rehearse day after day, month after month the same passage from the same song, without being permitted to go any further. Finally, overwhelmed by frustration and despair, the young man ran off to find another profession. One night, stopping at an inn, he stumbled upon a recitation contest.

Having nothing to lose, he entered the competition and, of course, sang the one passage that he knew so well. When he had finished, the sponsor of the contest highly praised his performance. Despite the student's embarrassed objections, the sponsor refused to believe that he had just heard a beginner perform. He must be a great master. Paradise Two people are lost in the desert. They are dying from hunger and thirst. Finally, they come to a high wall. On the other side they can hear the sound of a waterfall and birds singing. Above, they can see the branches of a lush tree extending over the top of the wall.

Its fruit looks delicious. One of them manages to climb over the wall and disappears down the other side. The other, instead, returns to the desert to help other lost travelers find their way to the oasis. Ritual Cat When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice.

Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.

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 stung. The other monk asked him, "Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?

But the scorpion does indeed sting the fox when they are in midstream. As the fox begins to drown, taking the scorpion with him, he pleadingly asks why the scorpion has jeopardized both of them by stinging. In Brazil, the fox is replaced by a frog.

The 10 Very Best Zen Stories For Travelers

No More Questions Upon meeting a Zen master at a social event, a psychiatrist decided to ask him a question that had been on his mind. Moving Mind Two men were arguing about a flag flapping in the wind. A Zen master, who happened to be walking by, overheard the debate and interrupted them. One day he passed a wealthy merchant's house. Through the open gateway, he saw many fine possessions and important visitors.

He became very envious and wished that he could be like the merchant. To his 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. 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. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below.

But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. 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. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the hard surface, and felt himself being changed. He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stone cutter. Maybe 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. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. 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 misfortune. 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. Tea or Iron The Zen master Hakuin used to tell his students about an old woman who owned a tea shop in the village. She was skilled in the tea ceremony, Hakuin said, and her understanding of Zen was superb. Many students wondered about this and went to the village themselves to check her out. Whenever the old woman saw them coming, she could tell immediately whether they had come to experience the tea, or to probe her grasp of Zen.

Those wanting tea she served graciously. For the others wanting to learn about her Zen knowledge, she hid until they approached her door and then attacked them with a fire poker. Only one out of ten managed to escape her beating. Nature's Beauty A priest was in charge of the zengarden 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 master.

Alan Watts - Zen Stories 1

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 temples.

When he had finished, the priest stood back to admire his work. Help me over this wall and I'll put it right for you. 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. Just Two Words There once was a monastery that was very strict.

Following a vow of silence, no one was allowed to speak at all. But there was one exception to this rule. Every ten years, the monks were permitted to speak just two words. After spending his first ten years at the monastery, one monk went to the head monk. Ten years later, the monk returned to the head monk's office. Yet another ten years passed and the monk once again met with the head monk who asked, "What are your two words now, after these ten years?

It may or may not be an original Zen tale. Like any good anecdote, it makes us laugh, but also encourages us to think about why it is funny. Dust Chao-chou Joshu was sweeping off the dirty floor when a monk asked him: Spider A Tibetan story tells of a meditation student who, while meditating in his room, believed he saw a spider descending in front of him. Each day the menacing creature returned, growing larger and larger each time.

So frightened was the student, that he went to his teacher to report his dilemma. He said he planned to place a knife in his lap during meditation, so when the spider appeared he would kill it. The teacher advised him against this plan. Instead, he suggested, bring a piece of chalk to meditation, and when the spider appeared, mark an "X" on its belly. The student returned to his meditation. When the spider again appeared, he resisted the urge to attack it, and instead did just what the master suggested.

When he later reported back to the master, the teacher told him to lift up his shirt and look at his own belly. There was the "X". True Self A distraught man approached the Zen master. I don't know who I am. Please, show me my true self! The man began to plead and beg, but still the master gave no reply. Finally giving up in frustration, the man turned to leave. At that moment the master called out to him by name. Wanting God A hermit was meditating by a river when a young man interrupted him.

The young man thought for a moment. 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.

10 Short Zen Stories | The Unbounded Spirit

When he eventually quieted down, the master spoke. The Sound of the Silence Once there was a buddhist who went to the mountains to seek a great master whom, he believed, could give him the definite answer regarding Wisdom. After many days of walk he found him in a beautiful temple on the edge of a beautiful valley. Please, make me cross the Gates of Zen. And this sound is the only word that you need to hear about the Truth. Self-Control One day there was an earthquake that shook the entire Zen temple. Parts of it even collapsed. Many of the monks were terrified.

When the earthquake stopped the teacher said, "Now you have had the opportunity to see how a Zen man behaves in a crisis situation. You may have noticed that I did not panic. I was quite aware of what was happening and what to do. I led you all to the kitchen, the strongest part of the temple. It was a good decision, because you see we have all survived without any injuries. However, despite my self-control and composure, I did feel a little bit tense - which you may have deduced from the fact that I drank a large glass of water, something I never do under ordinary circumstances.

Don't talk Four monks decided to meditate silently without speaking for two weeks. By nightfall on the first day, the candle began to flicker and then went out. The first monk said, "Oh, no! The candle is out. I'm the only one who didn't speak. No Problem A Zen student came to Bankei and complained: How can I cure it? If it were, you could show it to me at any time.

When you were born you did not have it, and your parents did not give it to you. Transient 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.

He too is dead. Buddha - Beyond the words There once was Buddha sitting under a tree, with his pupils gathered around hoping he began his speech. In certain moment, Buddha calmly leaned and picked up a flower. He lifted it to the height of his face and rotated it smoothly. The pupils were frightened and confused, and they murmured questioning the sense of that to each other. From among them, only Kashyapa understood the gesture, smiling.

Shakyamuni Buddha noticed that Kashyapa had understood, and told him: That mysterious Dharma transcends the language and the rational beginnings. The logical thought cannot be used to obtain the Understanding; just with the sensibility of the no-mind one can reach the Truth. That, I grant you starting from this moment the spirit of Dhyana".

A Useless Life A farmer got so old that he couldn't work the fields anymore. So he would spend the day just sitting on the porch. His son, still working the farm, would look up from time to time and see his father sitting there. Without saying anything, the father climbed inside. After closing the lid, the son dragged the coffin to the edge of the farm where there was a high cliff. As he approached the drop, he heard a light tapping on the lid from inside the coffin.

He opened it up. Still lying there peacefully, the father looked up at his son. Your children might need to use it. When Tired A student once asked his teacher, "Master, what is enlightenment? Tea Combat A master of the tea ceremony in old Japan once accidentally slighted a soldier. He quickly apologized, but the rather impetuous soldier demanded that the matter be settled in a sword duel. The tea master, who had no experience with swords, asked the advice of a fellow Zen master who did possess such skill.

As he was served by his friend, the Zen swordsman could not help but notice how the tea master performed his art with perfect concentration and tranquility. The soldier, readying himself to strike, stared for a long time into the fully attentive but calm face of the tea master. Finally, the soldier lowered his sword, apologized for his arrogance, and left without a blow being struck. 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 they could.


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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! 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. 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?


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Crowned very young, he felt in the obligation of instructing, so he gathered around himself numerous erudites coming of all the countries and asked them that published for him the humanity's history. All the erudites concentrated, therefore, in the task. Twenty years were spent in the preparing of the edition. Finally, they went to palace, loaded of five hundred volumes accommodated in the back of twelve camels. King Zemir was, then, past of the forty years old.

In those conditions, please, get ready a summarized edition. But the king had aged a lot. With almost sixty years, he felt weak: Please, do me a version still briefer ". The erudites laboured more ten years and later they returned with an elephant loaded of its works. But then, with more than seventy years, almost blind, the king could not read. He asked, then, an edition still abbreviated. The erudites had also aged. They concentrated for more five years and, moments before the monarch's death, they returned with a single volume.

To his head, the erudites' senior answered: On a certain occasion, his Master Nangaku approached him and asked, "Why do you practise so much Meditation? The Master took of a tile and began to scrub it with a stone. It will always be a stone! No matter how much you practise Meditation, you won't become a Buddha.

You won't find the right way like that. Ambition In old China, a magic hermit called Senrin lived in a deep mountainous valley. One day, an old friend went to visit him.


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Senrin, very happy for see him, offered a dinner and a shelter for the night; in the next morning, before the friend's departure, the hermit wanted give him a gift. He picked up a stone and, with the finger, transformed it into a block of pure gold. The friend was not satisfied; Senrin aimed the finger for a huge boulder, which also was turned to gold. The friend continued without smiling.

The other man said, "Cut off your finger, I want it. Joshu Washes the Bowl A monk told Joshu: Master Tokusan was doing zazen by the river. Approaching the margin, a pupil shouted, "Good morning, Master! He got up, turned around and began to walk along the river, following the course of the water The pupil, at that moment, reached enlightenment.

Where does the Way begin? One day, a pupil went to master Kian-fang and asked him: Please, master, where does this Way begin? The old master made a risk in the ground with his stick and said: 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. A week later, the student came back to his teacher. I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! The Master Ma-ku once called his pupil: If I had not looked for you as my teacher, I would have been taken miserably, during all my life, to the sutras and the sastras!

But what I know, none of you are able to know. Mind and No-Mind A monk asked Ta-chu: They are not the Mind," the master said. Truly, it neither depends nor is independent of the words. It is eternally calm and free in its movement. The Old Woman and The Buddha There was an old woman that lived at the east side of the city in that Buddha also lived. She had been born at the same time and year of Buddha's birth, and she had lived all his life accompanying the story of His life.

However, she never wanted to see him, or to speak with him. Whenever she heard that Buddha approached, she escaped from his presence, trying for all the manners to avoid the Buddha's look, running for here and for there, hiding. But one day, she was in a place from where she couldn't leave or to hide. Buddha approached, and the old woman, despaired in his terror of finding such man, no longer knew what to do.

Then, in the last moment, she made the only possible thing to avoid to see Buddha: At this moment, marvelously, the face of Buddha appeared among each one of his ten fingers. The condition of Buddha represents the absolute statement Dharma. One cannot escape from the Truth, because it will be to each step of his road. Therefore, who is this old woman? Amid the confusion the master arrives, quietly grabbed the cat and lifted it. The monks stopped in silence, and the master said: The master simply twists the neck of the cat, killing it.

Stories for the Soul

He split it in two, and throws a part in the direction of each group of lonely monks. Later, when Chao-chou came back of a trip, he heard of some monks the report of the event. Near, Nan-Ch'uan observed the chat. One of the monks asked Chao-chou then: At this moment Nan-Ch'uan appeared and said: What means "mine" and "yours"? Happiness The monk Shou-duan was very diligent, but he didn't have sense of humor. He practiced Zen in a rigid and moralist way, and he was unable to guide himself by the happiness.

One day his master, called Yang-ki, asked: The monk Shou-duan was astonished. He didn't understand the reason of so much happiness. Along that night he was unable to sleep, thinking of what could have been so funny in all that. The next day he went to the master's presence and asked him: I don't understand what can be so funny! Do you remember that? Bestirred, the monk answered: Zen Cow Shih-kung once was working in the kitchen when Ma-tsu come closer and ask him what he's doing.

I cannot amuse not even one minute! Joshu's Dog A monk asked Chao-chou japanese: Joshu , a Chinese Zen master: Hyakujo's Fox Once when Hyakujo delivered some Zen lectures an old man attended them, unseen by the monks. At the end of each talk when the monks left so did he. But one day he remained after the had gone, and Hyakujo asked him: I was a Zen master and lived on this mountain. At that time one of my students asked me whether the enlightened man is subject to the law of causation.

Will you save me from this condition with your Zen words and let me get out of a fox's body? Now may I ask you: Is the enlightened man subject to the law of causation? Please perform my funeral as a monk. The next day Hyakujo gave an order through the chief monk to prepare to attend the funeral of a monk. In a cave, with his staff he poked out the corpse of an old fox and then performed the ceremony of cremation. That evening Hyakujo gave a talk to the monks and told this story about the law of causation. Obaku, upon hearing this story, asked Hyakujo: Now I was to ask: If some modern master is asked many questions, and he always gives the right answer, what will become of him?

Hyakujo clapped his hands and laughed at the discernment. Kyogen Mounts the Tree Kyogen said: His hands grasp no branch, his feet rest on no limb, and under the three another person asks him: Now what shall he do? Buddha Twirls a Flower When Buddha was in Grdhrakuta mountain he turned a flower in his fingers and held in before his listeners. Every one was silent. Only Maha-Kashyapa smiled at this revelation, although he tried to control the lines of his face. It is not expressed by words, but especially transmitted beyond teaching.

Religions from all over the world have used storytelling as a medium to convey their messages of wisdom. One such religion is Buddhism, which for centuries has used parables, anecdotes, fables and tales to help people develop awareness by offering them enlightening insights and moral life lessons. This culminates in the teachings of Zen Buddhism, a tradition famous for using short stories extensively to arise in Buddhist monks and students a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of reality. Some of them are easy to understand, others need more time to ponder at, but all of them are profoundly meaningful.

So he would spend the day just sitting on the porch. His son, still working the farm, would look up from time to time and see his father sitting there. Without saying anything, the father climbed inside. After closing the lid, the son dragged the coffin to the edge of the farm where there was a high cliff. As he approached the drop, he heard a light tapping on the lid from inside the coffin. He opened it up. Still lying there peacefully, the father looked up at his son.

Your children might need to use it. How long will it take me to master it. 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? Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain.

One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing in it to steal. Ryokan returned and caught him.