Do you know any good zen story?

I find it amazing that you should think there is any separation between the two! Zen is a grand joke to which more of us ought to share in. :mrgreen:

Tell that to the French philosopher, Msieur Marcus. His response may well veer twards the crudely prosaic, rather than profundity.

Le`D :imp:

Monsieur Voltaire? Or Monsieur Satre?

The former was quite fond of a joke or twelve, and the latter…well, in his cumulative years he was himself a bit of a joke, and much given to the odd bit of prosaic discourse.

Le D :smiling_imp:

This probably doesn’t count as a “real” Zen story, but here goes…

Yesterday, we visited Birmingham (UK) and found ourselves stranded for a few hours in the newly regenerated canal area near the Symphony Hall. After an interesting and informative trip on a narrow boat, we thought we’d hide from the sporadically showery weather for a while, so we ensconced ourselves in Pizza Express and idly people-watched as we ate and chatted. Just outside the entrance to our restaurant, in full view of our table, was a shop called Zen, selling new-age-y stuff and advertising tarot card readings etc. Business seemed a bit slack, as you might expect late on a Sunday afternoon, but after a while a group of half a dozen people went inside… and we didn’t see them re-appear, even though we watched and waited avidly (having nothing better to do at the time, and desperate for entertainment). My son advanced the theory that a modern-day Sweeney Todd might be at work in Zen. Two doors down is a new, opening-later-this-week food place (called Mash House or something like that), advertising “gourmet sausages” and “handmade pies”. Do the two premises share a cellar? Is some nefarious butchery afoot? Are Zen’s customers being turned into dishes for the new restaurant’s opening day? We suspect there is no basis to our speculation, but we quite liked the idea… and this rambling tale does feature a shop called Zen, even if it isn’t what you might recognise as a Zen story! :slight_smile:

I suspect that most “Zen” stories are nothing to do with Zen, but are old, traditional, philosophical tales that are simply adapted to a new fashion … take this one:

A zen master and his novice were flying in a jumbo-jet when the captain came over the intercom and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that one of our engines has just failed. We are perfectly safe on three engines, but we will be 15 minutes late arriving. The crew will serve you drinks in the meantime.”
Ten minutes later, he came on again to say that a second engine had failed, but as the plane had been designed to fly safely on two engines, there was no danger but they would be half an hour late arriving.
When he announced the failure of the third engine, while assuring the passengers they were still safe on only one, the novice began to panic, “I hope the fourth engine doesn’t fail …”
The master said, “My son, if the fourth engine fails, we’ll be up here all day!” The novice immediately achieved enlightenment.

Zen story? Idriss Shah quotes a version of it as a Nasruddin story; I’ve heard it told it as an Irish story; the French can tell it as a Belgian story … it can be attributed to any philosopher or philosophy you like …


Since Zen emerged 1300 years ago, I’d hardly call it a “new” fashion.

I’d also say that any story involving airplanes probably can’t be attributed to either Zen or Nasruddin.


Typical Katherine! wind everybody up

I won’t rise to it, I won’t …

Mark in the land where Zen first developed …

Good on ya Sport!! :wink:

On a bush with green buds
an old obituary
flutters in the wind

Forgotten passions slowly brush my lips as the scenery is ever changing.

Ding the Butcher

Prince Huei employed a man named Ding, a butcher of such art he could carve a steer and the steer didn’t even notice that it was dead. The Prince sent for the man and asked him to explain this.

Cook Ding said,

"When I first began to carve bullocks, I saw before me whole bullocks. But after three years practice, I saw whole animals no longer. I began to work with my mind and not my eye. My mind moves without the attention of my senses, gliding through the joints and cavities in the natural construction of the animal."

"I don't touch the great muscles and tendons, still less attempt to cut bones. A good cook changes his chopper once a year because he cuts muscle and tendon. An ordinary cook, once a month, because he hacks bone. But though I've had this chopper nineteen years, and cut up thousands of animals, its edge is fresh as if from the whetstone."

"You see, at the joints there are always interfaces, and the edge of a chopper being without thickness, it remains only to insert it into such an interface. Indeed there is plenty of room for the blade to move about."

"Nevertheless, when I come upon a knotty part which is unfamiliar, I am all caution. I fix my eye and stay my hand, and gently apply my blade until the part yields like earth crumbling to the ground. Then I remove my chopper, stand up, and look around. Then, wiping it, I put it carefully away."

Zen is nothing special outside of daily life, and that trying to make it extraordinary is to miss the point.

You are carrying an ever present torture instrument: your own mind. What does the mind want? It wants to run towards the next moment, the next thing. It is (almost) never satisfied with this moment. This moment is its enemy. It perceives this moment as boring. It longs for the next moment where it will fulfill itself. But the next moment eventually becomes this moment, so the fulfillment is for ever postponed.

But what exactly is this moment? It is the only reality there is. The next moment does not exist outside your own mind. So your mind renounces the only reality there is, in favor of some non existing mind projection. So you are not satisfied with this moment, but you think that you will be satisfied in some future moment. Thus you are never satisfied. This is what makes it a torture instrument.

To become a zen master you have to renounce the projection of your own mind, in favor of the present moment. And it is not boring if you have a zen mind.

Remember the post I wrote about “how to be happy”. It was about the man who could not find happiness and went to India to ask a wise guru who answered: It is very easy to be happy. Whatever happens to you, you must say "This I like’. That means, to say yes to the present moment. For it is the true life, the only life there is. Saying yes to it, is the key.

But I do not want this moment, I do not like it, it is boring, I want to fulfill myself, says your little ego. If you are able to let go of such thoughts and concentrate on whatever is around you right now, then you will loose your little ego, but you will gain the kingdom of heaven, as one zen master once said :wink: .

To summarize: Whenever you say NO to this moment (which you do almost all the time) you inflate your little ego, and whenever you say YES to this moment you’re entering the kingdom of heaven. It’s that simple. It’s zen.

Kodo Sawaki once said: Zen ist the greatest lie of all times

If you close your eyes, you can still imagine to see.
If you close your ears, you can still imagine to hear.
So, close your mind and imagine to think…

It would be interesting to record what the mind of a normal person thinks during the waking hours of a typical day. I think that it would amount to something like

A. 65% of the total time: complaining about the current situation. The bus is not on time. There are no good programs on TV. The weather is not as it should be. The government or banks or corporations or people are not fair. They are trying to cheat me. This guy is full of bullshit. All this zen talk is just a lot of rubbish. The Israelis or Muslims or Americans or Russians or French or Longobards are evil, trying to steal what’s rightfully not theirs, etc.

B. 25% of the total time: repetitious thoughts. I should not have done so and so in the past. I will be happy in the future by loosing weight, getting rich, getting a good job, etc.

C. 8% of the total time: focused thoughts on getting the task at hand done.

D. 2% of the total time: enjoying the things that are happening right now.

A zen master spends most of his time in C and D and very little time in A and B. What’s your score?

Since I am being considered a zen student for a long, long time I’d like to answer that one.

My score is the length of green.

Not much of an answer, heh? And even intended to be as silly as possible, as cheap as possible. Like something straight out of a fortune cookie. But then, thats just about it :slight_smile:

“Normal” person? I’m out. So it vic-k for that matter.


Out where? :open_mouth: :confused:

Surely not? Assuming that eight hours a day are spent in thought-free sleep, this statistic implies that a normal person spends 10 hours and 24 minutes grumbling every day, and a mere 19 minutes in a state of comparative contentment.

Barring bereavement, fortunately, neither I nor anyone I know could be described so negatively (even on dark days or when everything goes wrong). I would suggest that anyone who does spend more than ten hours a day complaining must be clinically depressed, or be subsisting in unacceptable living conditions, or be grossly maltreated by others, or have a very vile temperament.