A famous spiritual teacher came to the front door of the King’s palace. None of the guards tried to stop him as he entered and made his way to where the King himself was sitting on his throne.
“What do you want?” asked the King, immediately recognizing the visitor.
“I would like a place to sleep in this inn,”
replied the teacher.
“But this is not an inn,” said the King,
“It is my palace.”
“May I ask who owned this palace before you?”
“My father. He is dead.”
“And who owned it before him?”
“My grandfather. He too is dead.”
“And this place where people live for a short time and then move on – did I hear you say that it is NOT an inn?”
During the civil wars in feudal Japan, an invading army would quickly sweep into a town and take control. In one particular village, everyone fled just before the army arrived – everyone except the Zen master.
Curious about this old fellow, the general went to the temple to see for himself what kind of man this master was.
When he wasn’t treated with the deference and submissiveness to which he was accustomed, the general burst into anger.
“You fool,” he shouted as he reached for his sword, “don’t you realize you are standing before a man who could run you through without blinking an eye!”
But despite the threat, the master seemed unmoved.
“And do you realize,” the master replied calmly, “that you are standing before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?”
The students in the monastery were in total awe of the elder monk, not because he was strict, but because nothing ever seemed to upset or ruffle him. So they found him a bit unearthly and even frightening.
One day they decided to put him to a test. A bunch of them very quietly hid in a dark corner of one of the hallways, and waited for the monk to walk by. Within moments, the old man appeared, carrying a cup of hot tea. Just as he passed by, the students all rushed out at him screaming as loud as they could.
But the monk showed no reaction whatsoever. He peacefully made his way to a small table at the end of the hall, gently placed the cup down, and then, leaning against the wall, cried out with shock, “Ohhhhh!”
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?”
Zen Stories I
Zen Stories II
Zen Stories III