ZEN   

Things are not what they appear to be;
nor are they otherwise.

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When to meditate, when to look within?
If you don't feel acceptance, love and
the sense of magic in your heart.

 

The old monk sat by the side of the road. With his eyes closed, his legs crossed and his hands folded in his lap, he sat. In deep meditation, he sat.

Suddenly his zazen was interrupted by the harsh and demanding voice of a samurai warrior. "Old man! Can you teach me about heaven and hell!"

At first, as though he had not heard, there was no perceptible response from the monk. But gradually he began to open his eyes, the faintest hint of a smile playing around the corners of his mouth as the samurai stood there, waiting impatiently, growing more and more agitated with each passing second.

"You wish to know the secrets of heaven and hell?" replied the monk at last. "You who are so unkempt. You whose hands and feet are covered with dirt. You whose hair is uncombed, whose breath is foul? You whose sword is all rusty and neglected. You who are ugly and whose mother dresses you funny. You would ask me of heaven and hell?"

The samurai uttered a vile curse. He drew his sword and raised it high above his head. His face turned to crimson and the veins on his neck stood out in bold relief as he prepared to sever the monk's head from its shoulders.

"That is hell," said the old monk gently, just as the sword began its descent.

In that fraction of a second, the samurai was overcome with amazement, awe, recognition and compassion for this gentle being who had dared to risk his very life to give him such a teaching. He stopped his sword in mid-flight and his eyes filled with grateful tears.

"And that," said the monk, "is heaven."


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Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era, received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

“I have come today to ask you about Zen.” The tone of his voice was one used to teaching others.

The Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter over a cup of tea. When the tea was served the master poured his visitor a cup. He poured and he poured and the tea rose to the rim and began to spill over the table. Finally the visitor shouted, “Enough. The cup is full!”

The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest.
“Are you not like this teacup, full with what you think you know and nothing more can be added. Come back when your cup is empty.”

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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 realise 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 realise," the master replied calmly, "that you are standing before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?"

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The Zen master Huike was meditating by a river when a young man called Bimo interrupted him. "Master, I wish to become your disciple," said Bimo. "Why?" asked Huike. "Because I want to find true liberation."

Huike slowly got to his feet, and told Bimo to come with him into the water. They both entered the river. The master asked Bimo to put his head under the water. He then grabbed and held his head down! After a few seconds Bimo tried to come up for air, but the master held his head firmly under.

After a little while Bimo started to splutter and struggle to get up but Huike still held him down. Just before he drowned, Huike released him and said: "Come back and see me when you want liberation as much as you wanted air just now.”



 


It does not matter what colour a cat is,
as long as it catches mice. ~ Deng Xiaoping