Thursday, June 26, 2014

Zen stories

Sometimes, I read that dogs always have the same answer to the question: What time is it?  "Now!"  I read a comment by Eckhart Tolle that he had lived with several Zen masters and all of them were cats.  Just as the parables of Jesus explain his ideas and principles, so do many of the Zen stories explain ideas and principles of Buddha and his followers..  Over time, reading Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Pema Chodron, Karen Maezen Miller  and other good Buddhist and Zen writers, I read enough Zen stories that I begin to know them, recognize them and have them come to mind without having to look them up.  

In our busy lives, the story of the delicious strawberry keeps coming to mind.  A man is chased by a tiger, comes to a cliff with a rope hanging over it, grabs the rope and proceeds over the edge.  Then, he looks down and sees another tiger waiting at the end of the rope.  Just then, he notices a wild strawberry right at eye level on the side of the cliff.  He picks it and pops it in his mouth and exclaims "Delicious!"  Sometimes the story is enhanced with mice gnawing the rope and/or bees stinging the man.  The point is to be so aware of life as it actually is that such dangers and discomforts do not distract one's attention so much that genuine but passing pleasures aren't fully appreciated.

This story from Pema Chodron's weekly email is another well-known one:

June 25, 2014


There's another story that you may have read that has to do with what we call heaven and hell, life and death, good and bad. It's a story about how those things don't really exist except as a creation of our own minds. It goes like this: A big burly samurai comes to the wise man and says, "Tell me the nature of heaven and hell." And the roshi looks him in the face and says: "Why should I tell a scruffy, disgusting, miserable slob like you?" The samurai starts to get purple in the face, his hair starts to stand up, but the roshi won't stop, he keeps saying, "A miserable worm like you, do you think I should tell you anything?" Consumed by rage, the samurai draws his sword, and he's just about to cut off the head of the roshi. Then the roshi says, "That's hell." The samurai, who is in fact a sensitive person, instantly gets it, that he just created his own hell; he was deep in hell. It was black and hot, filled with hatred, self-protection, anger, and resentment, so much so that he was going to kill this man. Tears fill his eyes and he starts to cry and he puts his palms together and the roshi says, "That's heaven."

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