Timeless Tales

by Staff

zen_master_origEmpty Your Cup
A 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. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s overfull! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “You are like this cup,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.”

Is That So?
When a beautiful girl in the village became pregnant, her angry parents demanded to know who the father was. 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 Hakuin who now was viewed as an outcast by the entire village. The villagers 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 Hakuin took very good care of the child until the mother could no longer live with 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 and forgive them. After they explained what had happened, Hakuin said, “Is that so?” as he handed over the child.

The Most Important Teaching
A renowned Zen master said that his greatest teaching was this: “Buddha is your own mind.” So impressed by how profound this idea was, one monk decided to leave the monastery and retreat to the wilderness to meditate on this insight. He spent 20 years there as a hermit probing the great teaching.

One day he met another monk who was traveling through the forest. The hermit monk quickly learned that the traveler had also studied under the same Zen master. “Please, tell me what you know of the master’s greatest teaching.” The traveler’s eyes lit up, “Ah, the master has been very clear about this. He says that his greatest teaching is this: Buddha is NOT your own mind.”

Moving Mind
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 only MIND that moves.”

Going with the Flow
A 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. “I 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.”

Just Two Words
There once was a monastery that had very strict rules. Following a vow of silence, no one was allowed to speak at all, but with one exception: 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 see the head monk. “It has been ten years,” said the head monk. “What are the two words you would like to speak?”

“Bed… hard…” said the monk.

“I see,” replied the head monk.

Ten years later, the monk returned again to the head monk’s office. “It has been ten more years,” said the head monk. “What are the two words you would like to speak?”

“Food… stinks…” said the monk.

“I see,” replied the head monk.

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 last ten years?”

“I… quit!” said the monk.

“Well, I can see why,” replied the head monk. “All you ever do is complain.”

Chasing Two Rabbits
A martial arts student approached his teacher with this question: “I’d 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?”

“The hunter who chases two rabbits,” answered the master, “catches neither one.”

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 matter-of-factly.

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!”

“It will pass,” the teacher replied matter-of-factly.