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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.