Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is That So?


A beautiful girl in the village was pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who was the father. At first resistant to confess, the anxious and embarrassed girl finally pointed to Hakuin, the Zen master whom everyone previously revered for living such a pure life. When the outraged parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter's accusation, he simply replied "Is that so?"
When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who now was viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. "Is that so?" Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.

For many months he took very good care of the child until the daughter could no longer withstand the lie she had told. She confessed that the real father was a young man in the village whom she had tried to protect. The parents immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With profuse apologies they explained what had happened. "Is that so?" Hakuin said as he handed them the child.

Monday, February 27, 2012

What Life Is


Life is – ‘believing that there is a lot to learn’.
Living is – ‘learning it every day.’
~Jordan D. Ulmer

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Most Beautiful

"The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen."  ~Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Practice Makes Perfect

A dramatic ballad singer studied under a strict teacher who insisted that he rehearse day after day, month after month the same passage from the same song, without being permitted to go any further. Finally, overwhelmed by frustration and despair, the young man ran off to find another profession. One night, stopping at an inn, he stumbled upon a recitation contest. Having nothing to lose, he entered the competition and, of course, sang the one passage that he knew so well. When he had finished, the sponsor of the contest highly praised his performance. Despite the student's embarrassed objections, the sponsor refused to believe that he had just heard a beginner perform. "Tell me," the sponsor said, "who is your instructor? He must be a great master." The student later became known as the great performer Koshiji.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hard Work


A martial arts student went to his teacher and said earnestly,

"I am devoted to studying your martial 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."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Concentration


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."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Holding Up a Mirror


You’ve no idea how hard I’ve looked for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.

What’s the point of bringing gold to the gold mine, or water to the Ocean.
Everything I came up with was like taking spices to the Orient.

It’s no good giving my heart and my soul because you already have these.

So- I’ve brought you a mirror.

Look at yourself and remember me.

–Rumi

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Hunter and the Bird


A  hunter once caught a small bird.  ‘Master,’ said the bird, ‘you have eaten many animals bigger than I without assuaging your appetite.     How can the flesh of my tiny body satisfy you?  If you let me go, I will give you three counsels: one while I am still in your hand, the second when I am on your roof, and the third from the top of a tree.  When you have heard all three, you will consider yourself the most fortunate of men.  The first counsel is this: “Do not believe the foolish pronouncements of others.” ’

The bird flew on to the roof, from where it gave the second counsel, ‘ “Have no regrets for what is past.”  Concealed in my body is a precious pearl weighing five ounces.  It was yours by right, and now it is gone.’  Hearing this the man began to bewail his misfortune.    ‘Why are you so upset?’ asked the bird.  ‘Did I not say, “Have no regrets for what is past”?  Are you deaf, or did you not understand what I told you?  I also said, “Do not believe the foolish pronouncements of others.”  I weigh less than two ounces, so how could I possibly conceal a pearl weighing five?’

Coming to his senses, the hunter asked for the third counsel.  ‘Seeing how much you heeded the first two, why should I waste the third?’ replied the bird.

Adapted from The Mathnawi of Jalalu’ddin Rumi, IV

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Ghost of My Dead Wife


The wife of a man became very sick. On her deathbed, she said to him, "I love you so much! I don't want to leave you, and I don't want you to betray me. Promise that you will not see any other women once I die, or I will come back to haunt you."

For several months after her death, the husband did avoid other women, but then he met someone and fell in love. On the night that they were engaged to be married, the ghost of his former wife appeared to him. She blamed him for not keeping the promise, and every night thereafter she returned to taunt him. The ghost would remind him of everything that transpired between him and his fiancee that day, even to the point of repeating, word for word, their conversations. It upset him so badly that he couldn't sleep at all.

Desperate, he sought the advice of a Zen master who lived near the village. "This is a very clever ghost," the master said upon hearing the man's story. "It is!" replied the man. "She remembers every detail of what I say and do. It knows everything!" The master smiled, "You should admire such a ghost, but I will tell you what to do the next time you see it."

That night the ghost returned. The man responded just as the master had advised. "You are such a wise ghost," the man said, "You know that I can hide nothing from you. If you can answer me one question, I will break off the engagement and remain single for the rest of my life." "Ask your question," the ghost replied. The man scooped up a handful of beans from a large bag on the floor, "Tell me exactly how many beans there are in my hand."

At that moment the ghost disappeared and never returned.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Blockhead Lord


Two Zen teachers, Daigu and Gudo, were invited to visit a lord. Upon
arriving, Gudo said to the lord: "You are wise by nature and have an
inborn ability to learn Zen."

"Nonsense," said Daigu. "Why do you flatter this blockhead? He may be
a lord, but he doesn't know anything of Zen."

So, instead of building a temple for Gudo, the lord built it for Daigu
and studied Zen with him.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Burning Hut

The only survivor of a shipwreck washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened; everything was lost. He was stung with grief and anger. "God, how could you do this to me!" he cried. Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. "How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers. "We saw your smoke signal," they replied.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Clouded Sight

"Soon the child's clear eye is clouded over by ideas and opinions, preconceptions and abstractions. Simple free being becomes encrusted with the burdensome armor of the ego. Not until years later does an instinct come that a vital sense of mystery has been withdrawn. The sun glints through the pines, and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise. After that day, we become seekers." -Peter Matthiessen-

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Blind Men and the Elephant

Several citizens ran into a hot argument about God and different religions, and each one could not agree to a common answer. So they came to the Lord Buddha to find out what exactly God looks like.

The Buddha asked his disciples to get a large magnificent elephant and four blind men. He then brought the four blind to the elephant and told them to find out what the elephant would "look" like.

The first blind men touched the elephant leg and reported that it "looked" like a pillar. The second blind man touched the elephant tummy and said that an elephant was a wall. The third blind man touched the elephant ear and said that it was a piece of cloth. The fourth blind man held on to the tail and described the elephant as a piece of rope. And all of them ran into a hot argument about the "appearance" of an elephant.

The Buddha asked the citizens: "Each blind man had touched the elephant but each of them gives a different description of the animal. Which answer is right?"

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Precious Gift

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream.
The next day she met another traveler who was hungry,
and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food.

The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without hesitation.
The traveler left rejoicing in his good fortune.
He knew the stone was worth enough to give him
security for a lifetime. But, a few days later,
he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.
"I've been thinking," he said. "I know how valuable this stone is,
but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something
even more precious. Give me what you have within you that
enabled you to give me this stone.
" Sometimes it's not the wealth you have
but what's inside you that others need.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Holding Up the Sky

One day an elephant saw a hummingbird lying on its back with its tiny feet up in the air. "What are you doing?" asked the elephant.

The hummingbird replied, "I heard that the sky might fall today, and so I am ready to help hold it up, should it fall."

The elephant laughed cruelly. "Do you really think," he said, "that those tiny
feet could help hold up the sky?"

The hummingbird kept his feet up in the air, intent on his purpose, as he
replied, "Not alone. But each must do what he can. And this is what I can do."

— A Chinese Folktale

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Enjoying Fish

One day Chuang Tzu and a friend were walking by a river. "Look at the fish swimming about," said Chuang Tzu, "They are really enjoying themselves."

"You are not a fish," replied the friend, "So you can't truly know that they are enjoying themselves."

"You are not me," said Chuang Tzu. "So how do you know that I do not know that the fish are enjoying themselves?"