by John WorldPeace

Copyright 1996 by John WorldPeace Houston, Texas USA

All rights reserved.

To World Peace; "The possible dream" 


Zen Roots
On Believing in Mind

Zen Roots 

The common legend is that the Zen tradition began with a smile.

Once when the Buddha was with his disciples on Mount Vulture, a high
ranking Hindu Brahman came to the Buddha and offered him a beautiful
golden sandlewood flower and requested that the Buddha preach a sermon. 

However, when the Buddha assumed his seat of instruction, he said
nothing. He simply held up the golden flower before his listeners.

No one present understood the meaning except one of the Buddha's
disciples named Kasyapa who received the teaching immediately and
acknowledged it with a smile.

This, in essence, is the foundation of Zen teaching. It is that wordless
knowing of the essence and oneness of all things. It is the indescribable
knowing that brings peace. 

This enlightenment, or satori as it is called in Zen, is beyond logic and
intellectual understanding. It is a knowing. It is what the Buddha called an
awakening. It is a transcendence of confusion in the manifestation of the
Infinite Potential.

Sometimes, as in this case, a smile signals the teacher as well as the student
that the student has awakened. Often it is those words "Ah-ha" that
immediately indicate a shift in one's state of mind; a shift from confusion in
the duality of life in this reality to a remembering of one's infinite, immortal
essence and one's oneness with all things.

Kasayapa became the first patriarch after the Buddha. The twenty-eighth
patriarch was Bodhidharma. Bodhidharma left India without leaving a
successor and went to China. There he took up residence at a monastery in
Wei and for nine years spent his time staring at a wall, meditating, and
waiting on someone to come along who was worthy of receiving his
teachings. It is said that he sat so long that his legs atrophied.

One day Bodhidharma was approached by a monk named Hui-ko, who was
to become Bodhidharma's successor as the Second Patriarch of Zen.

Hui-ko again and again asked Bodhidharma for instruction, but was always
refused. Yet he continued to sit in meditation outside the cave, waiting
patiently in the snow in hope that Bodhidharma would at last relent. In
desperation, he finally cut off his left arm and presented it to Bodhidharma
as a token of his agonized sincerity. At this Bodhidharma at last asked
Hui-ko what he wanted.

Hui-ko said, "I have no peace of mind. Please pacify my mind."

"Bring out your mind here before me," replied Bodhidharma, "and I will
pacify it!"

"But when I seek my mind," said Hui-ko, "I cannot find it."

"There snapped Bodhidharma, "I have pacified your mind!"

At this moment, Hui-ko was awakened and reached satori.

This is the way of Zen. One becomes aware or awakened at any time;
upon seeing a bird, turning around, eating a pear, staring at a cloud. It is
not the result of any particular act. 

It is a transcendence outside sacred and holy scripture;
It has no dependence on words or letters;
It is a path directly to the infinite, immortal essence of one's being;
It is seeing into the oneness of all things,
and an understanding of one's relationship to the Infinite Potential.

On Believing in Mind


The Infinite Potential knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences:
Only when freed from hate and love,
Does it reveals itself fully and without disguise;

A tenth of an inch's difference,
And heaven and earth are set apart;
If you wish to see it before your own eyes,
Have no fixed thoughts either for or against it.


To set up what you like against what you dislike 
This is the confusion of the mind:
When the deep meaning of the Infinite Potential is not understood
Peace of mind is disturbed to no purpose.


The Infinite Potential is perfect like unto vast space,
With nothing wanting, nothing superfluous:
It is indeed due to making choices
That its oneness is lost sight of.


Pursue not the outer entanglements,
Dwell not in the inner void;
Be serene in the oneness of things,
and dualism vanishes by itself.


When you strive to gain peace by stopping motion,
The peace thus gained is ever in motion;
As long as you tarry in the dualism,
How can you realize oneness?


And when onenss is not thoroughly understood,
In two ways loss is sustained:
The denying of reality, asserts it,
And the asserting of emptiness, denies it.


Wordiness and intellection 
The more with them the more confused we become;
Away therefore with wordiness and intellection,
Then there is no place where we cannot easily pass.


When we return to the root of oneness, we gain the meaning;
When we pursue external objects, we become confused.
The moment we are enlightened within,
We go beyond the confusion of a world confronting us.


Transformations going on in an empty world which confronts us
Appear real all because of Confusion:
Try not to seek after the true,
Only cease to cherish opinions.


Abide not with dualism,
Carefully avoid pursuing it;
As soon as you have right and wrong, 
Confusion ensues, and Peace and Harmony is lost.


The two exist because of the One,
But hold not even to this One;
when a mind is not confused,
The ten thousand things are not distinguished.


No distinctions embraced, and no ten thousand things;
No disturbance going, and no mind set up to work:
the subject is quieted when the object ceases,
The object ceases when the subject is quieted.


The object is an object for the subject,
The subject is a subject for the object:
Know that the relativity of the two
Rests ultimately on Oneness.


In Oneness the two are not distinguished,
And each contains in itself all the ten thousand things;
When no distinction is made between this and that,
How can a one-sided and prejudiced view arise?


The Infinite Potentail is calm and large-hearted,
For it nothing is easy, nothing is hard;
Small views are irresolute,
the more in haste, the tardier they go.


Clinging is never kept within bounds,
It is sure to lead to confusion;
Quit it, and things follow their own courses,
While the essence of Oneness neither departs nor abides.


Obey the nature of things, and you are in concord 
with the Infinite Potential,
Calm and easy and free from confusion;
but when your thoughts are confused, you turn away from the truth,
They grow heavier and duller and are not at all sound.


When they are not sound, the spirit is troubled;
What is the use of being partial and one-sided then?
If you want to walk the course of the One Vehicle,
Be not prejudiced against the six sense-objects.


When you are not prejudiced against the six sense-objects,
You are then one with Enlightenment;
The wise are non-active,
while the confused bind themselves up in activity;
While residing within the Oneness of the Infinite Potential,
there is no individuation,
They in confusion attach themselves to particular objects.
It is their own mind that creates illusions 
Is this not the greatest of all self-contradictions?


The confused cherish the idea of rest and unrest,
The enlightened have no likes and dislikes:
All forms of dualism
Are contrived by the confused themselves.
They are like unto visions and flowers in the air;
Why should we trouble ourselves to take hold of them?
Gain and loss, right and wrong 
Away with them once and for all!


If an eye never falls asleep,
All dreams will by themselves cease:
If the Mind retains it absoluteness,
the ten thousand things are of one Suchness.


When the deep mystery of Oneness is fathomed,
All of a sudden we forget the external entanglements;
When the ten thousand things are viewed in their Oneness,
We return to the origin and reside in peace and harmony.


Forget the wherefore of things,
And we attain to a state beyond analogy;
Movement stopped and there is no movement,
Rest set in motion and there is no rest:
when dualism does not exist,
The peace and harmony of Oneness abides.


The ultimate end of things where they cannot go any further
Is not bound by rules and measures:
In the Mind harmonious with the Infinite Potential 
we have the principle of identity,
In which we find all strivings quieted;
Doubts and irresolutions are completely done away with,
and the right faith is straightened;
There is nothing left behind,
There is nothing retained,
All is void, lucid, and self-illuminating;
There is no exertion, no waste of energy 
This is where thinking never attains,
This is where the imagination fails to measure.


In the higher realm of true Oneness
There is neither "self" nor "other":
When direct identification is sought,
We can only say, "Not two".


In being "not two" all is the same,
All that is is comprehended in it;
the wise in the ten quarters,
They all enter into this Absolute Reason.


This Absolute Reason is beyond time and space,
For it one instant is ten thousand years;
Whether we see it or not,
It is manifested everywhere in all the ten quarters.


Infinitely small things are as large as large things can be,
For here no external conditions exist:
Infinitely large thins are as small as small things can be,
For objective limits are here of no consideration.


What is is the same as what is not,
What is not is the same as what is:
Where this sate of things fails to exist,
Indeed, do not tarrying there.


One in All,
All in One 
If only this is realized,
No more worry about your not being perfect!


Where the Mind and each believing mind are not divided,
and undivided are each believing mind and Mind,
This is where words fail;
For it is not of the past, present, or the future.



by John WorldPeace

Copyright 2002 by John WorldPeace Houston, Texas USA

All rights reserved.

To WorldPeace: "the possible dream"

Alan Watts said that he once gave a book of Zen stories to a friend who 
was ill. When the freind recovered, Alan asked him what he thought 
about the book. The friend said that he did not understand it but after 
reading it, he felt better.

Is That So?

The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.

A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.  This made he parents angry. She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.

In great anger the parents went to the master. "Is that so?" was all he would say.

After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and everything else the little
one needed.

A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth; that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market.

The mother and the father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back again.  Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: "Is that so?"


The master Bankei's talks were attended not only by Zen students but by persons of all ranks and sects. He never quoted sutras nor indulged in scholastic dissertations. Instead, his words were spoken directly from his
heart to the hearts of his listeners.

His large audiences angered a priest of the Nichiren sect because the adherents had left to hear about Zen. The self-centered Nichiren priest came to the temple, determined to debate with Bankei.

"Hey, Zen teacher!" he called out. "Wait a minute. Whoever respects you will obey what you say, but a man like myself does not respect you. Can you make me obey you?"

"Come up beside me and I will show you," said Bankei.

Proudly the priest pushed his way through the crowd to the teacher.

Bankei smiled. "Come over to my left side." 

The priest obeyed.

"No," said Bankei, "we may talk better if you are one the right side. Step over here."

The priest proudly stepped over to the right.

"You see," observed Bankei, "you are obeying me and I think you are a very gentle person. Now sit down and listen.

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 should not return empty-handed. 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."

Happy Buddha

Anyone walking about Chinatowns in America will observe statues of a stout fellow carrying a linen sack. Chinese merchants call him Happy Chinaman or Laughing Buddha.

This Hotei lived in the T'ang dynasty. He had no desire to call himself a Zen master or to gather many disciples about him. Instead he walked the streets with a big sack into which he would put gifts of candy, fruit, or
doughnuts. These he would give to children who gathered around him in play. He established a kindergarten of the streets.

Whenever he met a Zen devotee he would extend his hand and say: "Give me one penny." And if anyone asked him to return to a temple to teach others, again he would reply: "Give me one penny."

Once as he was about his play-work another Zen master happened along and inquired: "What is the significance of Zen?"

Hotei immediately plopped his sack down on the ground in silent answer.  "Then," asked the other, "what is the actualization of Zen?"  

At once the Happy Chinaman swung the sack over his shoulder and continued on his way.

Muddy Road

Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.

Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.

"Come on, girl," said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.

Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. "We monks don't go near females," he told Tanzan, "especially not young and lovely ones. It is
dangerous. Why did you do that?"

"I left the girl there," said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?"


A university student while visiting Gasan asked him: "Have you ever read the Christian bible?"

"No read it to me," said Gasan.

The student opened the Bible and read from Matthew: "And why concern yourself with clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow.  They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I tell you that even Solomon in
all his glory was not arrayed like one of these...Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow will take thought for the things of itself."

Gasan said: "Whoever uttered those words I consider an enlightened man."

The student continued reading: "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone that asks receives, and he that seeds finds, and to him that knocks, it shall be

Gasan remarked: "That is excellent. Whoever said that is a Buddha."

A Parable

Buddha told a parable in a sutra:

A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above.
Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. One the vine sustained him.

Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it

Eshun's Departure

When Eshun, the Zen nun, was past sixty and about to leave this world, she asked some monks to pile up wood in the yard.

Seating herself firmly in the center of the funeral pyre, she had it set fire around the edges.

"O nun!" shouted one monk, "is it hot in there?"

"Such a matter would concern only a stupid person like yourself," answered Eshun.

The flames arose, and she passed away.

Three Day's More

Suiwo, the disciple of Hakuin, was a good teacher. During one summer seclusion period, a pupil came to him from a southern island of Japan.

Suiwo gave him the problem: "Hear the sound of one hand." 

The pupil remained three years but could not pass this test. One night he came in tears to Suiwo. "I must return south in shame and embarrassment," he said, "for I cannot solve my problem."

"Wait one week more and meditate constantly," advised Suiwo. Still no enlightenment came to the pupil. "Try for another week," said Suiwo. The pupil obeyed, but in vain.

"Still another week." Yet this was of no avail. In despair the student begged to be released, but Suiwo requested another meditation of five days. They were without result. Then he said: "Meditate for three days longer, then if you fail to attain enlightenment, you had better kill yourself."

On the second day the pupil was enlightened.

Trading Dialogue for Lodging

Provided he makes and wins an argument about Buddhism with those who live there, any wondering monk can remain in a Zen temple. If he is defeated, he has to move on.

In a temple in the northern part of Japan two brother monks were dwelling together. The elder one was learned, but the younger one was stupid and had but one eye.

A wandering monk came and asked for lodging, properly challenging them to a debate about the sublime teachings. The elder brother, tired that day  from much studying, told the younger one to take his place. "Go and request the dialogue in silence," he cautioned.

So the young monk and the stranger went to the shrine and sat down.

Shortly afterwards the traveler rose and went in to the elder brother and said: "Your young brother is a wonderful fellow. He defeated me."

"Relate the dialogue to me," said the elder one.

"Well," explained the traveler, "first I held up one finger, representing Buddha, the enlightened one. So he held up two fingers, signifying Buddha and his teaching. I held up three fingers, representing Buddha, his teaching,
and his followers, living the harmonious life. Then he shook his clenched fist in my face, indicating that all three come from one realization. Thus he won and so I have no right to remain here." With this, the traveler left.

"Where is that fellow?" asked the younger one, running in to his elder brother.

"I understand you won the debate."

"Won nothing. I'm going to beat him up."

"Tell me the subject of the debate," asked the elder one.

"Why, the minute he saw me he held up one finger, insulting me by insinuating that I have only one eye. Since he was a stranger I thought I would be polite to him, so I held up two fingers, congratulating him that he
has two eyes. Then the impolite wretch held up three fingers, suggesting that between us we only have three eyes. So I got mad and started to punch him, but he ran out and that ended it!"

Publishing the Sutras

Tetsugen, a devotee of Zen in Japan, decided to publish the sutras, which at that time were available only in Chinese. The books were to be printed with wood blocks in an edition of seven thousand copies, a tremendous undertaking.

Tetsugen began by traveling and collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give him a hundred pieces of gold, but most of the time he received only small coins. He thanked each donor with equal
gratitude. After ten years Tetsugen had enough money to begin his task.

It happened that at that time the Uji Rive overflowed. Famine followed.  Tetsugen took the funds he had collected for the books and spent them to save others from starvation. Then he began again his work of collecting.

Several years afterwards an epidemic spread over the country. Tetsugen again gave away what he had collected, to help his people. For a third time he started his work, and after twenty years his wish was fulfilled. The printing blocks which produced the first edition of sutras can be seen today in the Obaku monastery in Kyoto.

The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen made three sets of sutras, and that the first two invisible sets surpass even the last.


After winning several archery contests, the young and rather boastful champion challenged a Zen master who was renowned for his skill as an archer. The young man demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull's eye on his first try, and then split that arrow with his second shot. "There," he said to the old man, "see if you can match that!" Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather
motioned for the young archer to follow him up the mountain. 

Curious about the old fellow's intentions, the champion followed him high into the mountain until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather flimsy and shaky log. Calmly stepping out onto the middle of the unsteady and certainly perilous bridge, the old master picked a far away tree as a target, drew his bow, and fired a clean, direct hit. "Now it is your turn," he said as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground. Staring with terror into the seemingly bottomless and beckoning abyss, the young man could not force himself to step out onto the log, no less shoot at a target. 

"You have much skill with your bow," the master said, sensing his challenger's predicament, "but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot." 

How Long? 

A martial arts student went to his teacher and said earnestly, "I am devoted to studying your system. How long will it take me to master it." The teacher's reply was casual, "Ten years." Impatiently, the student answered, "But I want to master it faster than that. 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?" The teacher thought for a moment, "20 years."

Elephant and Flea Roshi Kapleau agreed to educate a group of psychoanalysts about Zen. After being introduced to the group by the director of the analytic institute, the Roshi quietly sat down upon a cushion placed on the floor. A student entered, prostrated before the master, and then seated himself on another cushion a few feet away, facing his teacher. 

"What is Zen?" the student asked. 

The Roshi produced a banana, peeled it, and started eating. 

"Is that all? Can't you show me anything else?" the student said. 

"Come closer, please," the master replied. 

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. "Do you all understand?" 

When there was no response, the student added, "You have just witnessed a first-rate demonstration of Zen. Are there any questions?" 

After a long silence, someone spoke up. "Roshi, I am not satisfied with your demonstration. You have shown us something that I am not sure I understand. It must be possible to TELL us what Zen is." "If you must insist on words," the Roshi replied, "then Zen is an elephant copulating with a flea."

Bell Teacher

A new student approached the Zen master and asked how he should prepare himself for his training. "Think of me a bell," the master explained. "Give me a soft tap, and you will get a tiny ping. Strike hard, and you'll receive a loud, resounding peal." 

Destiny or Choice? During a momentous battle, a Japanese general decided to attack even though his army was greatly outnumbered. He was confident they would win, but his men were filled with doubt. On the way to battle, they stopped at a religious shrine. 

After praying with the men, the general took out a coin and said, "I shall now toss this coin. If it is heads, we shall win. If tails, we shall lose. Destiny will now reveal itself."

He threw the coin into the air and all watched intently as it landed. It was heads! The soldiers were so overjoyed and filled with confidence that they vigorously attacked the enemy and were victorious. 

After the battle, a lieutenant remarked to the general, "No one can change destiny."

"Quite right," the general replied as he showed the lieutenant the coin, which had heads on both

The 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. Then report back.

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".

The Unreceived Gift

 There once lived a great warrior. Though quite old, he still was able to defeat any challenger. His reputation extended far and wide throughout the land and many students gathered to study under him.

One day an infamous young warrior arrived at the village. He was determined to be the first man to defeat the great master. Along with his strength, he had an uncanny ability to spot and exploit any weakness in an opponent. He would wait for his opponent to make the first move, thus revealing a weakness, and then would strike with merciless force and lightning speed. No one had ever lasted with him in a match beyond the first move. 

Much against the advice of his concerned students, the old master gladly accepted the young warrior's challenge. 

As the two squared off for battle, the young warrior began to hurl insults at the old master. He threw dirt and spit in his face. For hours he verbally assaulted him with every curse and insult known to mankind. But the old warrior merely stood there motionless and calm. Finally, the young warrior exhausted himself.  Knowing he was defeated, he left feeling shamed. 

Somewhat disappointed that he did not fight the insolent youth, the students gathered around the old master and questioned him. "How could you endure such an indignity? How did you drive him away?" 

"If someone comes to give you a gift and you do not receive it," the master replied, "to whom does the gift belong?" 

The Inn

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. 

"What do you want?" asked the King, immediately recognizing the visitor.

"I would like a place to sleep in this inn," replied the teacher.

"But this is not an inn," said the King, "It is my palace."

"May I ask who owned this palace before you?"

"My father. He is dead."

"And who owned it before him?"

"My grandfather. He too is dead."

"And this place where people live for a short time and then move on - did I hear you say that it is NOT an inn?"

The old woman and the teas shop

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. 

The old man on the mountain

One day a child goes to his mother and asks her, "Ma, who is that old man sitting on the mountain? " Mother answers, "Don't call him an old man, for he is Lord Buddha, who knows the answer to every question in this universe." "Really, he knows answers to all questions?" asks the child. "Yes my dear" replies the mother. The child goes to the mountain where Buddha is meditating, catches a butterfly in from the garden, and cupping the butterfly gently in his hands, he aproaches Buddha. Keeping his hand behind his back, he asks Buddha? " Is the thing in my hand alive or dead?" The child thinks that if Buddha answers that the thing is alive, he will crush the butterfly in his hand and show the dead butterfly proving Buddha wrong. And if Buddha answers that the thing is dead, he will open his gently cupped hand, allowing the butterfly to fly away showing that the butterfly was alive and again proving Buddha wrong. Thus Buddha did not know the answer to all questions. " Is the thing in my hand alive or dead?" repeats the eager child. The Buddha opens his eyes, nods his head and replies, "My dear son, the answer lies in your hands!"

The blessing

A rich man asked Sengai to write something for the continued prosperity of his family so that it might be treasured from generation to generation. Sengai obtained a large piece of paper and wrote, "Father dies, son dies, grandson dies."

The rich man became angry . "I asked you to write something for the happiness of my family! Why do you make such a joke as this?"

"No joke is intended, explained Sengai. "If before you yourself die your son should die , " this would grieve you greatly. If your grandson should pass away before your son, both of you would be broken-hearted. If your family, generation after generation, passes away in the order I have named, it will be the natural course of life. I call this real prosperity." 


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. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.

"May be," the farmer replied.

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

"May be," 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.

"May be," 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.

"May be," said the farmer. 


In the early days of the Meiji era there lived a well-known wrestler called O-nami, Great Waves. O-nami was immensely strong and knew the art of wrestling. In his private bouts he defeated even his teacher, but in public he was so bashful that his own pupils threw him. O-nami felt he should go to a Zen master for help. Hakuju, a wandering teacher, was stopping in a little temple nearby, so O-nami went to see him and told him of his trouble. "Great Waves is your name," the teacher advised, "so stay in this temple tonight, Imagine that you are those billows. You are no longer a wrestler who is afraid. You are those huge waves sweeping everything before them, swallowing in all their path. Do this and you will be the greatest wrestler in the land." The teacher retired. O-nami sat in meditation trying to imagine himself as waves. He thought of many different things. Then gradually he turned more and more to the feeling of the waves. As the night advanced the waves became larger and larger. They swept away the flowers in their vases. Even the Buddha in the shrine was inundated. Before dawn the temple was nothing but the ebb and flow of an immense sea. In the morning the teacher found O-nami meditating, a faint smile on his face. He patted the wrestler's shoulder. "Now nothing can disturb you," he said. "You are those waves. You will sweep everything before you." The same day O-nami entered the wrestling contests and won. After that, no one in Japan was able to defeat him. 

What am I

In Tokyo in the Meiji era there lived two prominent teachers of opposite characteristics. One, Unsho, an instructor in Shingon, kept Buddha's precepts scrupulously. He never drank intoxicants, nor did he eat after eleven o'clock in the morning. The other teacher, Tanzan, a professor of philosophy at the Imperial University, never observed the precepts. Whenever he felt like eating, he ate, and when he felt like sleeping in the daytime he slept. One day Unsho visited Tanzan, who was drinking wine at the time, not even a drop of which is suppposed to touch the tongue of a Buddhist. "Hello, brother," Tanzan greeted him. "Won't you have a drink?" "I never drink!" exclaimed Unsho solemnly "One who does not drink is not even human," said Tanzan. "Do you mean to call me inhumam just because I do not indulge in intoxicating liquids!" exclaimed Unsho in anger. "Then if I am not human, what am I?" "A Buddha," answered Tanzan. 

Frog legs

A farmer came into town and asked the owner of a restaurant if he could use a million frog legs. The restaurant owner was shocked and asked the man where he could get so many frog legs! The farmer replied, "There is a pond near my house that is full of frogs - millions of them. They all croak all night long and they are about to make me crazy!" So the restaurant owner and the farmer made an agreement that the farmer would deliver frogs to the restaurant, five hundred at a time for the next several weeks. The first week, the farmer returned to the restaurant looking rather sheepish, with two scrawny little frogs. The restaurant owner said, "Well... where are all the frogs?" The farmer said, "I was mistaken. There were only these two frogs in the pond. But they sure were making a lot of noise!" 

Going for salt

A turtle family decided to go on a picnic. Turtles, being naturally slow about things, took seven years to prepare for their outing. Finally the turtle family left home looking for a suitable place. During the second year of their journey they found a place ideal for them at last! For about six months they cleaned the area, unpacked the picnic basket, and completed the arrangements. Then they discovered they had forgotten the salt. A picnic without salt would be a disaster, they all agreed. After a lengthy discussion, the youngest turtle was chosen to retrieve the salt from home. Although he was the fastest of the slow moving turtles, the little turtle whined, cried, and wobbled in his shell. He agreed to go on one condition: that no one would eat until he returned. The family consented and the little turtle left. Three years passed and the little turtle had not returned. Five years... six years...then on the seventh year of his absence, the oldest turtle could no longer contain his hunger. He announced that he was going to eat and begun to unwrap a sandwich. At that point the little turtle suddenly popped out from behind a tree shouting, "See! I knew you wouldn't wait. Now I am not going to go get the salt." 

The vow of silence

There's a strict monastery which enforces a vow of silence. The monks are only allowed to speak two words, once every ten years.After his first ten years, a novice is called into the master's office. "So what would you like to say?"The monk says, "Bed... hard.""I see," says the head monk.Another ten years pass. The monk is called back in. "You've been here 20 years now, what would you like to say?""Food... stinks.""I see."Another ten years pass. It's that time again: "So, what would you like to talk about today?" asks the master."I... quit!" says the monk."Well, I'm not surprised. All you ever do is complain." 

I think your right

Nasrudin was asked to be the judge in a dispute between two neighbors. The first presented his case and Nasrudin said, "I think you're right." Then the second presented his case and Nasrudin said, "I think you're right." A bystander protested. "But, Nasrudin, they cannot both be right." And Nasrudin said, "I think you're right." 


When the Tesshu, a master of Zen, calligraphy and swordsmanship, was a young man he called on the Zen master Dokuon. Wishing to impress Dokuon he said, “The mind, the Buddha, and all sentient beings after all do not exist. The true nature of phenomenon is emptiness. There is no realisation, no delusion, no sagacity, no mediocrity, nothing to give and nothing to receive.Dokuon promptly hit him with a bamboo stick. Tesshu became quite furious.Dokuon said quietly: “If nothing exists, where did this anger come from?”

A Flexible Grip

Tesshu once met a street fighter nicknamed ‘The terror of Edo,’ who had had more than thirty sword fights without once being defeated. Tesshu asked him where he had learned his skill. The street fighter replied that he was entirely self taught.“Then how did you succeed?” asked Tesshu.“As soon as the fight began I would get close enough to touch the tip of my enemy’s sword with my own. If he held his sword stiffly I knew I could win easily, but if he held his sword in a flexible grip with a strong projection of ki, I didn’t take the risk of a fight. If I meet such a man I throw my sword at him and run away, and thus remain undefeated.”

The Assembly of the Cats

Once there was a sword master called Shoken, who lived in a house infested with a large rat. This rat was truly ferocious, and no matter how hard Shoken chased it with his bokuto he could not kill it. Fortunately, one of Shoken’s neighbours was a cat breeder who specialised in training his cats to kill rats. Shoken asked if he might borrow a cat to catch the rat.The cat trainer gave Shoken a viscous ginger alley cat, a real street fighter with sharp claws. But when the cat came to face the rat, the rat stood it’s ground and the cat was afraid. Shoken returned the cat to the cat master.“Must be some rat,” said the breeder, and gave Shoken a lean black and white cat. “This cat has had years of training, and is highly skilled.” The second cat fought with the rat, but the rat was able to beat it easily.Shoken went back to the cat breeder, and retuned with a jet black cat. The black cat had a very strong presence, projecting a quiet confidence. “This cat has mastered flawless technique, and has developed his mind through meditation. His zanshin is truly powerful. This cat will get the rat,” the master had said. But this cat also was defeated.When Shoken returned to the cat master, the master said. “Very well, this time I will give you the master of the cats. This cat was old and grey, and did not look so impressive. Shoken took the cat home and brought it to face the rat. The rat moved to attack the old cat, but the old cat sat quietly unconcerned. Suddenly the rat felt a slight tinge of fear. The rat hesitated, and suddenly the old cat reached out a claw and killed the rat with a single strike.When Shoken brought the cat back to the breeder he asked him how it was that the old cat could kill the rat while the younger ones had such a hard time. “Come with me,” said the breeder, “I’m sure the cats will discuss this, and since cats know a great deal about martial arts I’m sure you will find their conversation interesting.” They listened in to the cats’ discussion.The ginger cat stood up and said, “I am very tough.”“Then why couldn’t you beat the rat? Because toughness is itself not enough. There will always be a tougher rat somewhere.” Said the old grey cat.The black and white cat spoke. “I have had years of training and impeccable technique, why could I not beat the rat?” “Because, although your waza is brilliant, and although you have had many years in the dojo, this is not enough in a real fight.“But I have perfected my body through training and my mind through meditation,” said the black cat, “I have flawless technique, and also have achieved enlightenment. Why did the rat defeat me?”“Because, Kuroi-san, although your skill is indeed great, and you have both spiritual and physical power you are not without desire. When you faced the rat you had an object in your mind, you did not have mushin. The rat sensed this, and his intuition was better than yours. Because you did not have mushin you were unable to harmonise your strength, your technique and you consciousness. I was able to use all these three elements naturally and unconsciously to defeat the rat. This is why I was successful.“But I know of another cat, in a village not far from here. His fur is snow white with age, and he’s not very strong looking. He doesn’t eat meat, but lives on vegetables and rice gruel, although he is known to take a little sake occasionally. He hasn’t caught a rat in years because the rats are all terrified of him! As soon as he walks into a house all the rats leave at once. Even in his sleep he chases away rats! We must all learn to be like him, beyond violence, beyond technique, beyond even the desire for skill.”

One Finger Zen

Gutei was a Zen teacher who had a habit of answering questions by simply raising a single finger. One day Gutei noticed a young boy imitating him. Someone had asked the boy what the master had taught that day, and the boy cheekily raised his finger. Gutei grabbed the boy suddenly and cut of his finger.The boy yelped and ran away, but Gutei called out to the boy. The boy stopped and looked back. As he did so Gutei raised his finger. In that instant the boy was enlightened.

What Are You Saying?

When Munan was getting old he called his senior pupil, Shoju in to see him.“Shoju,” he said, “I am getting old. This book was handed to me by my teacher, to him from his teacher for seven generations. You will succeed me, and I am now passing the book to you.”Shoju declined to accept the book. “I have received your teaching without writing and am satisfied. I have no need for the book. Perhaps you should keep it.”“Even so,” said Munan, “you should take the book as a symbol of my teaching. This has been so for seven generations.” And he passed the book to Shoju.Shoju threw it into the fire.“What are you doing!” Shouted Munan.“What are you saying!” Shouted Shoju back.

Emperor Meiji’s Wrestling

Tesshu served in the household of the Emperor Meiji as Japan transformed from a feudal to a modern society. Meiji enjoyed Sumo wrestling and often wrestled with his aids. Since he was the Emperor his opponents always let him win, giving Meiji a false impression of his own abilities. One evening Tesshu was drinking sake with the emperor and some of the other aids when the emperor challenged Tesshu to a sumo match.Since he did wanted neither to humiliate the emperor nor fake a loss, Tesshu politely declined to wrestle the emperor. Meiji insisted and, having drunk a lot of sake, became angry at Tesshu’s continued refusal. Meiji began to shove Tesshu but found him to be solidly grounded. He threw a punch at Tesshu, but Tesshu moved slightly to the side, causing the emperor to lose his balance and tumble to the floor. Tesshu then pinned him to the ground while the other aids shouted at him to be appropriately respectful. Eventually Tesshu released the emperor and went to another room.Everyone demanded that Tesshu immediately apologise for causing such humiliation to the emperor, but Tesshu only said “If I deliberately let him throw me I would be nothing better than a lackey, whereas I have pledged my life to him. He must learn not to lose his temper and not to be a bully. If he does not learn defeat in a wrestling match he will become a tyrant. Tell him what I have said and if he orders me to commit suicide I will do so immediately.The emperor sent Tesshu a message to say that he would henceforth abstain from both sake and sumo.

A Test of Good Health

Matsuka, one of Tesshu’s students heard he was dying, but because Tesshu was only in his early 50s and always apparently in good health he did not believe it. Creeping into Tesshu’s room late at night he saw his teacher sitting zazen and jumped on him. Tesshu quickly pinned him to the ground, and seeing who it was demanded an explanation. The student however saw that his teacher was still strong and quickly ran away to tell the other students that there was nothing wrong with Tesshu. The following week Tesshu died of stomach cancer.

Pot Lid Zen

Yagyu Matajuro was a young member of the Yagyu family, famous for the family tradition of swordsmanship. However Matajuro’s father was disappointed in his son’s tendency towards laziness and banished him from the dojo. Matajuro, his pride stung resolved to seek out a master and return as a great swordsman. Matajuro journeyed to the Kumano shrine in the province of Kii, where he had heard of a great teacher called Banzo. The monks at the shrine told him that Banzo lived as a hermit in the nearby mountains, and showed him the trail to follow. Eventually he found Banzo asked to be accepted as a student.“How long will it take me to learn swordsmanship?” he asked.“The rest of your life,” was the reply.“I can’t wait that long. I will accept any hardship, and will devote myself completely to the study of swordsmanship.”“In that case, ten years.”“What if I train twice as hard?” tried Matajuro.“In that case, thirty years.”“Why is that? First you say ten then thirty years. I will do anything to learn, but I don’t have that much time.”“In that case, seventy years.”Sensing the direction of the conversation, Matajuro capitulated and agreed to work as long as it took, and do anything he was told. However, for the first year all Banzo had Matajuro do was to perform simple physical tasks such as chopping wood. After a year of this Matajuro was disappointed and demanded that Banzo teach him some swordsmanship. Banzo merely insisted that he chop wood.Matajuro went to the woodpile and was chopping, but inwardly he was furious. He resolved to leave Banzo the next day. But while he was chopping Banzo crept up behind him and struck him painfully with a wooden sword. “You want to learn swordsmanship, but you can’t even dodge a stick,” he said.From that day on Banzo would creep up on Matajuro and attack him with a wooden sword. Eventually Matajuro’s senses became heightened, and Banzo had to change tactics. Now Banzo would attack repeatedly, even when Matajuro was asleep. For the next four years Matajuro had not a moment’s rest from the fear of unexpected attack.One day, when Matajuro was stirring some food on the fire, Banzo crept up and attacked him by surprise. Without thinking Matajuro fended off the blow with the lid of the pot without taking his mind off stirring the food. That night Banzo wrote out a certificate of mastery for Matajuro.

When it is Possible to Break Study

One of Tesshu’s former students, Ogura Tetsuju, had undertaken a three year Zen retreat when he heard that Tesshu was on his death bed. He asked for, and was given, permission to visit his teacher one last time. However, when he arrived Tesshu refused to see him, saying only “Tell him the three years are not up yet.The day before he died Tesshu noticed that there were no sounds of training to be heard from the dojo. He was told that the students had decided to cancel training to be with him in his last hours. “Training is the only way to honour me!” he thundered, and ordered them back to training.

Carry It Out

A monk once asked Joshu “If I have nothing in my mind, what should I do?”“Throw it out.” Replied Joshu.“But if there is nothing in my mind how can I throw it out?”“Then,” said Joshu, “you will have to carry it out.”

The Moon

Ryokan was a Zen master who lived a very simple life in the countryside. One summer evening, Ryokan returned home to find a thief in his house. The thief was looking for something to steal but could find nothing. “You have come a long way to visit,” said Ryokan, “I cannot let you return empty handed. Please accept my clothes as a gift.” The thief was so confused he grabbed the clothes and ran away. Later Ryokan sat outside watching the moon. To himself he said, “What a shame I could not give him this beautiful moon.” 

Time to die

Ikkyu, the Zen master, was very clever even as a boy. His teacher had a precious teacup, a rare antique. Ikkyu happened to break this cup and was greatly perplexed. Hearing the footsteps of his teacher, he held the pieces of the cup behind him. When the master appeared, Ikkyu asked: "Why do people have to die?" 
"This is natural," explained the older man. "Everything has to die and has just as long to live." Ikkyu, producing the shattered cup, added: "It was time for your cup to die."

Learning To Be Silent 

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: "Fix those lamps." The second pupil was surprised to hear the first one talk. "We are not supposed to say a word," he remarked. "You two are stupid. Why did you talk?" asked the third. "I am the only one who has not talked," concluded the fourth pupil.

The Thief Who Became a Disciple 

One evening as Shichiri Kojun was reciting sutras a thief with a sharp sword entered, demanding either his money or his life. Shichiri told him: "Do not disturb me. You can find the money in that drawer." Then he resumed his recitation. A little while afterwards he stooped and called: "Don't take it all. I need some to pay taxes with tomorrow." The intruder gathered up most of the money and started to leave. " thank a person when you receive a gift," Shichiri added. The man thanked him and made off. A few days afterwards the fellow was caught and confessed, among others, the offense against Shichiri. When Shichiri was called as a witness he said: "This man is no thief, at least as far as I am concerned. I gave him the money and he thanked me for it." After he had finished his prison term, the man went to Shichiri and became his disciple. 

huangbo's dreg slurpers

huangbo once said to the community, "you're all slurpers of dregs. running around looking for teachings- how will you ever arrive where you are? you keep searching for an enlightened master who is going to give you something you don't have. don't you know that in all of china there isn't a single teacher of zen?" a monk came forward and said, "then what about all those monasteries and their eminant abbots?" huangbo replied, "i didn't say there's no zen- just that there aren't any teachers." 

zhaozho's not landing anywhere

zhaozho once said, "the truth is easy to find. just avoid making distinctions and be pure. but as soon as you say or do anything at all you make a distinction, and even purity depends on impurity to be pure. as for me, i don't land anywhere and i'm not pure. what do you say?" a monk responded: "since you don't land anywhere, can you say anything?" zhaozho said, "i don't know."the monk shot back, "if you don't know how can you say you don't land anywhere?" zhaozho said, "asking the question is enough. just bow and go."

Face to face with Linji

In a formal zen questioning ceremony Elder Ting asked the tough teacher Linji, "What's the essential truth?" Linji got up off his ceremonial chair, grabbedTing by the lapels of his robe, and hit him three or four times. Ting stood there speechless until one of the other students said, "Why don't you bow?" As Ting, still in a daze, started to make his formal leaving bows he suddenly had an insight into the truth. 

Falling Down in the Snow

Once a Zen Master was walking along in a snowstorm and he heard a distant cry for help. Looking up and down he couldn't find anyone until finally he noticed a depression in a big snowdrift. Someone had tripped and fallen inside. "I'll help you!" he shouted enthusiastically, as he plunged down beside the person deep in the snowdrift.