Ten Amusing and Enlightening Zen Stories

I have been away for several days last time for a conference and talks. While I am composing new posts on the experiences I had lately, let me present you these ten Zen stories. I believe you might have read some of these. Yet, I found the stories were quite amusing and enlightening. It’s always good to reflect on our experience(s).

Story #1
Four monks decided to meditate silently without speaking for two weeks. By nightfall on the first day, the candle began to flicker and then went out.

The first monk said, “Oh, no! The candle is out.”

The second monk said, “Aren’t we not supposed to talk?”

The third monk said, “Why must you two break the silence?”

The fourth monk laughed and said, “Ha! I’m the only one who didn’t speak!”
Source: Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors

Story#2
Dongshan asked Yunju, “What are you doing?”

Yunju said, “I am making soy paste.”

Dongshan, “Are you using some salt?”

Yunju said, “I turn some in.”

Dongshan asked, “How does it taste.”

Yunju said, “Done.”
Source: Essential Zen

Story #3
One day a young Buddhist on his journey home came to the banks of a wide river. Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on just how to cross such a wide barrier. Just as he was about to give up his pursuit to continue his journey he saw a great teacher on the other side of the river.

The young Buddhist yells over to the teacher, “Oh wise one, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river?”

The teacher ponders for a moment looks up and down the river and yells back, “My son, you are on the other side!”
Source: A Lighter Side of Buddhism

Story#4
Late one night a blind man was about to go home after visiting a friend.

“Please,” he said to his friend, “May I take your lantern with me?”

“Why carry a lantern?” asked his friend. “You won’t see any better with it.”

“No,” said the blind one, “perhaps not. But others will see me better, and not bump into me.”

So his friend gave the blind man the lantern, which was made of paper on bamboo strips, with a candle inside. Off went the blind man with the lantern, and before he had gone more than a few yards, “Crack!”  A traveler walked right into him.

The blind man was very angry. “Why don’t you look out?” he stormed. “Why don’t you see this lantern?”

“Why don’t you light the candle?” asked the traveler.

Story #5
Sozan, a Chinese Zen master, was asked by a student, “What is the most valuable thing in the world?”

The master replied, “The head of a dead cat.”

“Why is the head of a dead cat the most valuable thing in the world?” inquired the student.

Sozan replied, “Because no one can name its price.”
Source: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones

Story #6
A wise Zen frog was explaining to the younger frogs the balance of nature, “Do you see how that fly eats a gnat? And now (with a bite) I eat the fly. It is all part of the great scheme of things.”

“Isn’t it bad to kill in order to live?” asked the thoughtful frog.

“It depends . . .” answered the wise frog just as a snake swallowed the Zen frog in one chomp before the frog finished his sentence.

“Depends on what?” shouted the students.

“Depends on whether you’re looking at things from the inside or outside,” came the muffled response from inside the snake.
Source: Zen Fables For Today

Story #7
One day there was an earthquake that shook the entire Zen temple. Parts of it even collapsed! Many of the monks were terrified.

When the earthquake stopped the teacher said, “Now you have had the opportunity to see how a Zen man behaves in a crisis situation. You may have noticed that I did not panic. I was quite aware of what was happening and what to do. I led you all to the kitchen, the strongest part of the temple. It was a good decision, because you see we have all survived without any injuries. However, despite my self-control and composure, I did feel a little bit tense – which you may have deduced from the fact that I drank a large glass of water, something I never do under ordinary circumstances.

One of the monks smiled, but didn’t say anything.

“What are you laughing at? asked the teacher.

“That wasn’t water,” the monk replied, “it was a large glass of soy sauce.”
Source: Zen Stories To Tell Your Neighbors

Story #8
A famous teacher took his pupils into a clearing in the forest that was known as a home for wild monkeys. There he took a hollow gourd with a small hole and inserted sweetened rice (a favorite of monkeys). Then he chained the gourd to a stake and waited with his class. Soon a very large monkey approached, sniffed the rice, inserted his paw, and screeched in frustration when he was unable to withdraw his paw (now a fist) through the narrow opening. Just then a leopard approached and hearing the monkey screeching decided to have the monkey for his dinner.

“Let go of the rice. Run!” screamed the pupils, but to no avail because the monkey in his hunger for the rice, refused to let go and was as a consequence caught and eaten by the leopard.

“What was the trap that killed the monkey?” asked the master.

“Rice,” said one student.

“The gourd,” said another.

“No,” replied the wise teacher. “The trap was greed.”
Source: Zen Fables For Today

Story #9
A great and foolish King complained that the rough ground hurt his feet, so he ordered the whole country to be carpeted with cow hide. The court jester laughed when the King told him of his order.

“What an absolutely crazy idea, Your Majesty,” he smiled. “Why all the needless expense? Just cut out two small pads to protect your feet!”

Story #10
“Oh boy! Oh boy!” cried the monk-on-probation who had just cracked the Zen Master’s favorite (and valuable) drinking cup.

The frightened youngster went to the Zen Master and asked, “Why must there be death?”

The Master answered, “Death is natural. It comes to all persons and things. We should not greet it with fear or meet death with anger. Why do you ask?”

“Because, Master, death has come upon your cup!”
Source: Zen Fables for Today

How do you find these stories? I hope they shed some lights to you, along with the facts that they can make you smile🙂. Thanks for reading.

©mhsantosa (2012)
I am happy to share this. Please feel free to reblog or share the link, all with my accreditation. Thank you.

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  1. […] I have been away for several days last time for a conference and talks. While I am composing new posts on the experiences I had lately, let me present you these ten Zen stories. I believe you might…  […]



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