Of Zen…

Zen stories.

They bring back fond memories. Of times I spent with my master – sometimes in larger groups, other times just with the uchideshis – live-in students.

Kancho – my master – used to conduct meditation discourses, and in between the philosophy, we used to wait eagerly for the Zen stories to make their appearance.

And he told many. Some, like the empty cup, he told many many times. Yet, each time we heard it, we felt something new about it. Maybe because we heard these stories without pre-conceived notions, with an empty mind – much like Rohāmrta sees his daily cartoons – which are essentially the same on loop:))

Anyways, today, as I came across a Zen story, I was transported back to the good old days – and so thought will share a few stories with you. Here they are, in no particular order…

A king sent his messenger to a Zen master to request a painting, he pays the master money, and the master said, “Okay, come back.”

So a year goes by, and the messenger comes back and tells him, “The king’s waiting for your painting, it has been a year now!”.

The Zen master says, “Oh, hold on,” and whips it right off in front of him and says, “Here.”

The messenger says, “What’s this? The king paid you twenty thousand bucks for this, and you knock it off in five minutes?”

The Zen master replies, “Yeah, but I spent ten years thinking about it.

A rich man asked a Zen master to write something down that could encourage the prosperity of his family for years to come. It would be something that the family could cherish for generations. On a large piece of paper, the master wrote, “Father dies, son dies, grandson dies.”

The rich man became angry when he saw the master’s work. “I asked you to write something down that could bring happiness and prosperity to my family. Why do you give me something depressing like this?”

“If your son should die before you,” the master answered, “this would bring unbearable grief to your family. If your grandson should die before your son, this also would bring great sorrow.

If your family, generation after generation, disappears in the order I have described, it will be the natural course of life. This is true happiness and prosperity.”

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. “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 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 ten years?”

“I… quit!” said the monk.

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

See you tomorrow!