Fast Eater


The day after their marriage, a newlywed couple sat eating a meal together—and for no apparent reason, the husband was wolfing down his food like there was no tomorrow.

One day, his wife said to him, “My beloved husband, no one is going to steal your food. Why don’t you slow down and enjoy it?”

The husband snappily replied, “That’s my secret. I can’t tell you.”

Upon hearing this, the wife became even more curious about her husband’s bizarre eating habits, and asked once again in an affectionate tone.

Finally, the husband replied, “I eat like this because my family has eaten quickly for as long as we can trace back our history. I’m just following our custom.”

– Unknown origin.

Knowing

A young single father had a son that he loved more than anything in the world. One day while the father was away, some plunderers burned down most of his village and kidnapped the little boy.

When the father came back, he mistook one of the burnt corpses as his son. Completely devastated, he had the body cremated, and put the ashes in a bag that he always carried around.

Days later, his son escaped from the plunderers, ran back home, and knocked on the door of the house that his father rebuilt. His father asked who it was. When the boy answered, “It’s me, your son—please let me in,” the father, who was still holding the bag of ashes, assumed it was some other boy playing a cruel joke. “Go away,” he shouted back.

The boy continued to knock and plead to the father, but the father continued to tell him to leave. Finally, the boy left and never came back again.

Reformation


Ryokan devoted his life to the study of Zen. One day he heard that his nephew, despite the admonitions of relatives, was spending his money on a courtesan. Inasmuch as the nephew had taken Ryokan’s place in managing the family estate and the property was in danger of being dissipated, the relatives asked Ryokan to do something about it.

Ryokan had to travel a long way to visit his nephew, whom he had not seen for many years. The nephew seemed pleased to meet his uncle again and invited him to remain overnight.
All night Ryokan sat in meditation. As he was departing in the morning he said to the young man:

“I must be getting old, my hand shakes so. Will you help me tie the string of my straw sandal?”

The nephew helped him willingly.

“Thank you,” finished Ryokan, “you see, a man becomes older and feebler day by day. Take good care of yourself.”

Then Ryokan left, never mentioning a word about the courtesan or the complaints of the relatives. But, from that morning on, the dissipations of the nephew ended.

– Zen Tradition.

Black-Nosed Buddha

A nun who was searching for enlightenment made a statue of Buddha and covered it with gold leaf. Wherever she ent she carried this golden Buddha with her.Years passed and, still carrying her Buddha, the nun came to live in a small temple in a country where there were many Buddhas, each one with its own particular shrine.

The nun wished to burn incense before her golden Buddha. Not liking the idea of the perfume straying to others, she devised a funnel through which the smoke would ascend only to her statue. This blackened the nose of the golden Buddha, making it especially ugly.

– Zen story from the Collection of Stone and Sand.

Rumi’s Teacher

The great Persian poet Rumi had an extraordinary teacher named Shams.

Even as a child Shams seemed different. His own parents struggled with whether to send him to a monastery of the village of fools. They did not know what to do with him.

When he had grown he told them the story of the duck’s egg that was found by the hen and hatched. The hen raised the duckling with her other chicks. One day they walked to a lake. The duck went right in the water, Shams said to his parents, “Now, father and mother, I have found my place. I have learned to swim in the ocean, even if you must remain on the shore.”

– unknown origin, told by Jack Kornfield, Vipassana Teacher, Theravada. 

Maybe

Once upon the time there was 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. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” 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 misfortune.

“Maybe,” 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.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

– Old Buddhist story, unknown origin.

Masterpiece

When one goes to Obaku temple in Kyoto he sees carved over the gate the words “The First Principle.”

The letters are unusually large, and those who appreciate calligraphy always admire them as being a masterpiece. They were drawn by Kosen hundreds of years ago. When the master drew them he did so on paper, from which workmen made the larger carving in wood. As Kosen sketched the letters a bold pupil was with him who had made several gallons of ink for the calligraphy and who never failed to criticize his master’s work.

“That is not good,” he told Kosen after the first effort.

“How is that one?”

“Poor. Worse than before,” pronounced the pupil.

Kosen patiently wrote one sheet after another until eighty-four First Principles had been accumulated, still without the approval of the pupil.

Then, when the young man stepped outside for a few moments, Kosen thought: “Now is my chance to escape his keen eye,” and he wrote hurridly, with a mind free from disctraction. “The First Principle.”

“A masterpiece,” pronounced the pupil.

– Zen story, from the Collection of Stone and Sand.

Shoun and his Mother


Shoun became a teacher of Soto Zen. When he was still a student his father passed away, leaving him to care for his old mother.

Whenever Shoun went to a meditation hall he always took his mother with him. Since she accompanied him, when he visited monasteries he could not live with the monks. So he would build a little house and care for her there. He would copy sutras, Buddhist verses, and in this manner receive a few coins for food.

When Shoun bought fish for his mother, the people would scoff at him, for a monk is not supposed to eat fish. But Shoun did not mind. His mother, however, was hurt to see the others laugh at her son. Finally she told Shoun: “I think I will become a nun. I can be a vegaterian too.” She did, and they studied together.

Shoun was fond of music and was a master of the harp, which his mother also played. On full-moon nights they used to play together.

One night a young lady passed by their house and heard music. Deeply touched, she invited Shoun to visit her the next evening and play. He accepted the invitation. A few days later he met the young lady on the street and thanked her for her hospitality. Others laughed at him. He had visited the house of a woman of the streets.

One day Shoun left for a distant temple to deliver a lecture. A few months afterwards he returned home to find his mother dead. Friends had not known where to reach him, so the funeral was then in progress.

Shoun walked up and hit the coffin with his staff. “Mother, your son has returned,” he said.

“I am glad to see you have returned, son,” he answered for his mother.

“Yes, I am glad too,” Shoun responded. Then he announced to the people about him: “The funeral ceremony is over. You may bury the body.”

When Shoun was old he knew his end was approaching. He asked his disciples to gather around him in the morning, telling them he was going to pass on at noon. Burning incense before the picture of his mother and his old teacher, he wrote a poem:

For fifty-six years I lived as best I could,
Making my way in this world.
Now the rain has ended, the clouds are clearing,
The blue sky has a full moon.

His disciples gathered about him, reciting a sutra, and Shoun passed on during the invocation.

– From the Zen text – A Collection of Stone and Sand.

The Moon Cannot be Stolen

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. “You may have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you shoud not return emptyhanded. Please take my clothes as a gift.”

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow, ” he mused, “I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.”

– From the 13th Century Zen Collection ‘Shaseki shū’, written by Zen master Mujū.

Thoughts

There was an example where a monk approached Ajahn Chah and complains that as he sits and meditates thoughts of lust just take over his mind. 

“I just don’t know what to do.” Said the monk. 

“That’s easy,” replied Ajahn Chah, “when the next Wan Phra comes we’ll have you get up into the sermon seat, and we’ll get you to describe to all the visitors to the monastery all of your sexual fantasies from the past week.”

The monk suddenly found it a lot easier to put the thoughts aside. 

– Thai Forest Tradition, Theravada.