is not some kind of
excitement but concentration
our usual everyday routine.
Banzan was walking through a market he overheard
a conversation between a butcher and his customer.
"Give me the best
piece of meat you have," said the customer.
"Everything in my
shop is the best," replied the butcher. "You cannot
find here any piece of meat that is not the best."
At these words Banzan
monks were washing their bowls in the river when they
noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk
scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process
stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the
fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again
other monk asked him, "Friend, why do you continue to
scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?"
the monk replied, "to save it is my nature."
fish trap exists because of the fish. Once you've
gotten the fish
you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists
because of the rabbit.
Once you've gotten the rabbit, you can forget the
snare. Words exist
because of their meaning. Once you've got the meaning,
you can forget
the words. Where can I find someone who has forgotten words
so I can talk with him or her?
you try to aim for it,
you are turning away from it.
No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place.
monks were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was falling. Coming around the bend,
they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash,
unable to cross the intersection.
on, girl," said the first monk. Lifting her
in his arms, he carried her over the mud.
second monk 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
he said. "It is dangerous. Why did you do
left the girl there," the first monk said. "Are you still carrying her?"
was sitting outside doing zazen. Lung-t'an
asked him why he didn't go back home. Te-shan answered,
"Because it is dark." Lung-t'an then lit a
candle and handed
it to him. As Te-shan was about to take it, Lung-t'an
blew it out. Te-shan had a sudden realization, and bowed.
day Chuang-tzu and a friend
were walking along a riverbank.
delightfully the fishes are
enjoying themselves in the water!"
are not a fish," his friend said. "How do you know whether or not
the fishes are enjoying themselves?"
are not me," Chuang-tzu said.
"How do you know that I do not know
that the fishes are enjoying themselves?"
Zen all the time is like
looking for fish tracks in a dry riverbed.
|If you understand, things are just as they are;
if you do not understand, things are just as they are.
Zen is a phenomenon of gold and dung. Before you understand it, it's like gold; after you understand
it, it's like dung. -Zen
the pine tree,
learn of the pine tree,
and from the bamboo,
learn of the bamboo.
winning several archery contests, the young and rather
challenged a Zen master who was renowned for his skill as an
archer. The young man demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency
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!"
the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned
for the young archer to follow him up the mountain.
the old fellow's intentions, the champion followed him high
mountain until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather
and shaky log. Calmly stepping out onto the middle of
and certainly perilous bridge, the old master picked a far
as a target, drew his bow, and fired a clean, direct hit.
it is your turn," he said as he gracefully stepped back
safe ground. Staring with terror into the seemingly
and beckoning abyss, the young man could not force himself to
out onto the log, no less shoot at a target. "You
have much skill with
your bow," the master said, sensing his challenger's
"but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose
|Before enlightenment, I chopped wood and
After enlightenment, I chopped wood and carried water.
the trees which allow the birds to perch and fly away
without either inviting them to stay or desiring them
never to depart. If your heart can be like this,
you will be near to the way.
a Chinese Zen teacher, lived alone in a small temple
in the country. One day four traveling monks appeared and
asked if they might make a fire in his yard to warm
they were building the fire, Hogen heard them arguing
about subjectivity and objectivity. He joined them and said:
"There is a big stone. Do you consider it to be inside or
outside your mind?"
the monks replied: "From the Buddhist viewpoint
is an objectification of mind, so I would say that the stone
is inside my mind."
head must feel very heavy," observed Hogen,
"if you are carrying around a stone like that in your
must have been warned against letting the golden hours slip
but some of them are golden only because we let them slip by.
Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master
after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.
to show his attainment, he said: "The mind,
Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist.
The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no
realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity.
There is no giving and nothing to be received."
who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he
whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the
youth quite angry.
nothing exists," inquired Dokuon, "where did
this anger come from?"
No seed ever sees the flower.
your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything;
it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there
many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.
In a small hut, Hakuin lived a quiet life
devoted to monastic purity. When the young unmarried daughter of the village grocer
became pregnant, she named Hakuin as the father. Her
parents went to Hakuin and charged him with the deed. Hakuin simply said, "Is that so?"
When the child was born, once again the
parents came to Hakuin. They handed him the baby and demanded he take responsibility
for raising it. Hakuin said, "Is that so?" and
took the baby in his arms.
Dutifully he began to look after the infant.
A year later, the young woman could bear it
no longer. She confessed
that the real father was a young man who worked in the
nearby fishmarket. The parents went to Hakuin once more,
this time making deep apologies, and asked him to return the
child. Hakuin said only, "Is that so?" and gave the baby
back to them.
traditional Zen Buddhist story
quieter you become,
the more you are able to hear.
peacefully doing nothing
and the grass grows all by itself.
which is too pure has no fish.
-Ts’ai Ken T’an
shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want. -Lao
story is told of one of the great patriarchs of the
The tradition was that the begging bowl and robe are
passed as the
symbol of the passing of the heritage from one abbot
to another. This particular abbot did not have anybody
in his lineage that he thought was worthy of
inheriting his bowl and his mantle. So he decided upon
a test. He announced that whoever could come up with
the most appropriate couplet would be the inheritor of
the bowl. On the wall next to the dining hall poems
began to appear. One of the poems went like this:
The Dharma wipes the dust from the mirror.
The mind reflects Buddha nature.
Another one said:
Meditation cleanses the mirror
That the mind may see the teaching.
Another wrote up there—and this was a little closer:
If the mind is dusty, it matters not
How clear the mirror.
Finally, the cook, who had never sat in meditation,
who had never visited the Master, wrote his own
couplet on the wall, in response to those earlier
poems. The couplet went like this:
No Mind. No Mirror.
Where does all this talk of dirt come from?
He got the mantle and the bowl.
-related by Mike Young
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To Zen, time and eternity are
one. -D.T. Suzuki
Drinking tea, eating rice,
I pass my time as it comes,
Looking down at the stream,
Looking up at the mountain,
How serene and relaxed I feel indeed!
The man to whom Tao
Acts without impediment
Does not bother with his own interests
And does not despise
Others who do.
He does not struggle to make money
And does not make a virtue of poverty.
He goes his way
Without relying on others
And does not pride himself
On walking alone.
While he does not follow the crowd
He won't complain of those who do.
Rank and reward
Make no appeal to him;
Disgrace and shame
Do not deter him.
He is not always looking
For right and wrong
Always deciding "Yes" or "No."
Put down your
opinion, your condition, your situation, then you will not be
stuck. Always stay open. Working in a gas station will
be no problem, or cleaning someone's house. If you are
holding your idea, "I want a high-class job, or a house, or a
car," then you will have a problem. Zen means put
everything down. Then you can control any situation or
condition. -Seung Sahn
After ecstasy, the laundry.
A carpenter and his
apprentice were walking together through a large forest. And
when they came across a tall, huge, gnarled, old, beautiful oak
tree, the carpenter asked his apprentice: "Do you know
why this tree is so tall, so huge, so gnarled, so old and
beautiful?" The apprentice looked at his master and
said: "No. . . why?" "Well," the
carpenter said, "because it is useless. If it had been
useful it would have been cut long ago and made into tables and
chairs, but because it is useless it could grow so tall and so
beautiful that you can sit in its shade and
relax." -Tao Story
The masters in the
art of living make little distinction between their work and their
play, their labor and their leisure, their minds and their bodies,
their education and their recreation, their love and their
religion. They hardly know which is which. They simply
pursue their vision of excellence in whatever they do,
leaving others to decide whether they are working or
playing. To them they are always doing
both. -Zen Buddhist text
When you are deluded and full of doubt, even
a thousand books of scripture are not enough. When you have
realized understanding, even one word is too
When an ordinary
person attains knowledge, that person is a sage; when a sage
attains understanding, that person is an ordinary person.
is based on mind, is led by mind, is fashioned by mind. If
you speak and act with a polluted mind, suffering will follow you,
as the wheels of the oxcart follow the footsteps of the ox.
Everything is based on mind, is led by mind, is fashioned by
mind. If you speak and act with a pure mind, happiness will
follow you, as a shadow clings to a form.
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