101 Zen Stories

Cleanliness of Heart

Once a group of beggars afflicted with leprosy came to the assembly of Zen master Bankei, a great-hearted
teacher of the masses. Bankei admitted them to his company, and when he initiated them, he even washed
and shaved their heads with his own hands.

Now as it happened, there was a certain gentleman present, the representative of a baron who had faith in
Bankei and had already built a temple in his province where the teacher could train disciples and lecture to
the people.

Revolted by the sight of the Zen master shaving the heads of untouchables, the gentleman hurriedly brought
a basin of water for Bankei to wash his hands. But the master refused, remarking, "Your disgust is filthier than
their sores."

Source: Zen Antics
Studying Mind

Mind studies was a lay self-improvement movement influenced by Zen. One day a follower of Mind studies came to Zen master Shosan to ask about the essentials of Buddhism. The Zen master said, "Buddhism is not a matter of using your discursive intellect to govern your body. It is a matter of using the moment of the immediate present purely, not wasting it, without thinking about past or future. "This is why the ancients exhorted people first of all to be careful of time: this means guarding the mind strictly, sweeping away all things, whether good or bad, and detaching from the ego.

"Furthermore," Zen master continued, "for the reformation of mind it is good to observe the principle of cause and effect. For example, even if others hate us, we should not resent them; we should criticize ourselves, thinking why people should hate us for no reason, assuming that there must be a causal factor in us, and even that there must be other as yet unknown casual factors in us.

"Maintaining that all things are effects of causes, we should not make judgments based on subjective ideas. On the whole, things do not happen in accord with subjective ideas; they happen in accord with the laws of Nature. If you maintain awareness of this, your mind will become very clear."

Source: Zen Antics
An old man says he complained only once in all his life -- when his feet were bare and he had no money to buy shoes.

Then he saw a happy man who had no feet. And he never complained again.

Settan once wrote a set of guidlines for Zen monasteries:

"An ancient said that Zen study requires three essentials. One is a great root of faith. The second is a great
feeling of wonder. The third is great determination. If one of these is lacking, you are like a tripod missing a
leg. "Here I have no special stipulations. I only require that you clearly recognize that everyone has an essential
nature that can be perceived, and that there is an essential truth that everyone can penetrate; only then will
your determination continue. And there are sayings at which to wonder. If people go off half aware and half
awakened, they cannot really succed in Zen. It is imperative to be careful and thoroughgoing."

Source: Zen Antics
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
Moving on

Raven took his perch on the Assembly Oak and addressed
a special meeting of the Tallspruce community, saying, "It's
time for me to be moving on."
Porcupine asked, "Where will you be going?"
Raven said, "Where cedar roots stand bare in the creek."
A hush fell over the circle. Grouse could be heard sniffling.
At last Porcupine asked, "Do you have any last words for us?"
Raven said, "Trust."

Source: Zen Master Raven
Tajima no Kami was fencing master to the Shogun.

One of the Shogun's bodyguards came to him one day asking to be trained in swordsmanship.

"I have watched you carefully," said Tajima no Kami, "and you seem to be a master in the art yourself. Before taking you on as a pupil, I request you to tell me what master you studied under."

The bodyguard replied, "I have never studied the art under anyone."

"You cannot fool me," said the teacher. "I have a discerning eye and it never fails."

"I do not mean to contradict your excellency," said the guard, "but I really do not know a thing about fencing."

The teacher engaged the man in swordplay for a few minutes then stopped and said, "Since you say you have never learned the art, I take your word for it. But you are some kind of master. Tell me about yourself."

"There is one thing," said the guard. "When I was a child I was told by a samurai that a man should never fear death. I therefore faced the question of death till it ceased to cause me the slightest anxiety."

"So that's what it is," said Tajima no Kami. "The ultimate secret of swordsmanship lies in being free from the fear of death. You need no training. You are a master in your own right."
Three Kinds of Disciples

A Zen master named Gettan lived in the latter part of the Tokugawa era. He used to say:
"There are three kinds of disciples: those who impart Zen to others, those who maintain
the temples and shrines, and then there are the rice bags and the clothes-hangers."

Gasan expressed the same idea. When he was studying under Tekisui, his teacher was very
severe. Sometimes he even beat him. Other pupils would not stand this kind of teaching and
quit. Gasan remained, saying: "A poor disciple utilizes a teacher's influence. A fair disciple
admires a teacher's kindness. A good disciple grows strong under a teacher's discipline."

Source: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
Knowing Fish

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?"

Source: Zen Stories To Tell Your Neighbors
"Who's On First" Zen

"I am going to pose a question," King Milinda
said to Venerable Nagasena. "Can you answer?"
Nagasena said, "Please ask your question."
The king said, "I have already asked."
Nagasena said, "I have already answered."
The king said, "What did you answer?"
Nagasena said, "What did you ask?"
The king said, "I asked nothing."
Nagasena said, "I answered nothing."

Source: The Little Zen Companion
My apologies for the interuption...

yes, talking and listening...

I forgot how bad I needed my Zen fix

The Astronomer

An Aesop Fable

An astronomer used to walk around outside every night to watch stars. One time,
as he was wandering on the outskirts of the city and gazing at the stars, he fell
into a well. After hollering and crying for help, someone ran up to the well, and after
listening to his story, remarked, "My good man, while you are trying to pry into the
mysteries of heaven, you overlook the common objects that are under your feet."


stray dog: You are welcome. :)
Fear is in the way you choose to look at things, not in the things themselves.

There was once a huge dragon in China who went from village to village killing cattle and dogs and chicken and people indiscriminately. So the villagers called upon a wizard to help them in their distress. The wizard said, "I cannot slay the dragon myself, for magician though I am, I am too afraid. But I shall find you the one who will."

With that he transformed himself into a dragon and took up position on a bridge so everyone who did not know it was the wizard was afraid to pass. One day, however, a traveler came up to the bridge, calmly climbed over the dragon, and walked on.

The wizard promptly took on human shape again and called to the person, "Come back, my friend -- I have been standing here for weeks waiting for you!"
It is impossible to make slaves of the enlightened, for they are just as happy in a state of slavery as in a state of freedom.

When the Greek philosopher Diogenes was captured and taken to be sold in the slave market, it is said that he mounted the auctioneer's platform and loudly said, "A master has come here to be sold. Is there some slave among you who is desirous of purchasing him?"
Open Your Own Treasure House

Daiju visited the master Baso in China.
Baso asked: "What do you seek?"
"Enlightenment," replied Daiju.
"You have your own treasure house.
Why do you search outside?" Baso asked.
Daiju inquired: "Where is my treasure
Baso answered: "What you are asking
is your treasure house."
Daiju was delighted! Ever after he
urged his friends: "Open your own trea-
sure house and use those treasures."

Source: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
Most people are so afraid to die that, from their efforts to avoid death, they never truly live.

A merchant in Baghdad sent his servant on an errand to the bazaar and the man came back white with fear and trembling. "Master," he said, "while I was in the marketplace, I walked into a stranger. When I looked him in the face, I found that it was Death. He made a threatening gesture at me and walked away. Now I am afraid. Please give me a horse so that I can ride at once to Samarra and put as great a distance as possible between Death and me."

The merchant -- in his anxiety for the man -- gave him his swiftest steed. The servant was on it and away in a trice.

Later in the day the merchant himself went down to the bazaar and saw Death loitering there in the crowd. So he went up to him and said, "You made a threatening gesture at my poor servant this morning. What did it mean?"

"That was no threatening gesture, sir," said Death. "It was a start of surprise at seeing him here in Baghdad."

"Why would he not be in Baghdad? This is where the man lives."

"Well, I had been given to understand that he would join me in Samarra tonight, you see..."

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

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
Zen Man. Sounds like a super hero. Is it a bird? Is it a plain? No, it's Zen Man.

Thanks for all the stories Lykan and Evil Poet. :)
Parable of the Raft

"Monks, I will teach you the parable of the raft---for getting across, not for retaining. It is like a man who going on a journey sees a great stretch of water, the near bank with dangers and fears, the farther bank secure and without fears, but there is neither a boat for crossing over, nor a bridge across. It occurs to him that to cross over from the perils of this bank to the security of the farther bank, he should fashion a raft out of sticks and branches and depending on the raft, cross over to safety. When he has done this it occurs to him that the raft has been very useful and he wonders
if he ought to take it with him on his head and shoulders. What do you think, monks? That the man is doing what should be done to the raft?"
"No, lord."
"What should that man do, monks? When he has crossed over to the beyond he must leave the raft and proceed on his journey. Monks, a man doing this would be doing what should be done to the raft. In this way I have taught you Dharma, like the parable of the raft, for getting across, not for retaining. You, monks, by understanding the parable of the raft, must not cling to right states of mind and, all the more, to wrong states of mind."

Source: Teachings of the Buddha by Jack Kornfield
Driving in India

A monk was driving in India when suddenly a dog crosses the road.
The car hit and killed the dog. The monk looked around and seeing
a temple, went to knock on the door. A monk opened the door. The
first monk said: "I'm terribly sorry, but my karma ran over your

Source: Funny Short Stories on Buddhism

A4Ever: You are welcome. The Adventures of
Zen Man and his dog Mu would make a cool
comic/cartoon imo. ;)