What is Zen? That is one question we have often asked. Zen is spirituality, meditation, art, guide, path – it is life.
The literal meaning of Zen is a Japanese form of Mahayana Buddhism that focuses on the value of meditation, rather than on idol worship. But for every person Zen means different. For some it is a guide, for some, it is an art to practice while for some, Zen becomes their entire life.
Whatever Zen maybe for you, these stories will surely help you walk a step closer to enlightenment.
1. THE ONE THAT TALKS ABOUT HARMONY:
One day, a master was watching a practice session in the courtyard. He realized that the presence of the other students was interfering with the young man’s attempts to perfect his technique.
The master could sense the young man’s frustration. He went up to the young man and tapped him on his shoulder.
“What’s the problem?” he inquired.
“I don’t know”, said the youth, with a strained expression.
“No matter how much I try, I am unable to execute the moves properly”.
“Before you can master technique, you must understand harmony. Come with me, I will explain”, replied the master.
The teacher and student left the building and walked some distance into the woods until they came upon a stream. The master stood silently on the bank for several moments. Then he spoke.
“Look at the stream,” he said. “There are rocks in its way. Does it slam into them out of frustration? It simply flows over and around them and moves on! Be like the water and you will know what harmony is.”
The young man took the master’s advice to heart. Soon, he was barely noticing the other students around him. Nothing could come in his way of executing the perfect moves. He had learnt harmony.
2. THE ONE ABOUT CHANGE:
“Suzuki Roshi, I’ve been listening to your lectures for years,” a student said during the question and answer time following a lecture, “but I just don’t understand. Could you just please put it in a nutshell? Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?”
Everyone laughed. Suzuki laughed.
“Everything changes,” he said. Then he asked for another question.
3. THE ONE ABOUT THE CUP OF TEA:
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
4. THE ONE THAT SAYS ‘IT WILL PASS’:
A student went to his meditation teacher and said, “My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I’m constantly falling asleep. It’s just horrible!”
“It will pass,” the teacher said matter-of-factly.
A week later, the student came back to his teacher. “My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It’s just wonderful!’
“It will pass,” the teacher replied matter-of-factly.
5. THE ONE THAT TEACHES ABOUT KEEPING THE MIND STILL:
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.
These five wise Zen stories are guides in themselves, that can show the light to a traveller lost in darkness.
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