Zen stories


    A very valuable Zen book

    In modern times a great deal of nonsense is talked about masters and disciples, and about the inheritance of a master’s teaching by favorite pupils, entitling them to pass the truth on to their adherents. Of course Zen should be imparted in this way, from heart to heart, and in the past it was really accomplished. Silence and humility reigned rather than profession and assertion. The one who received such a teaching kept the matter hidden even after twenty years. Not until another discovered through his own need that a real master was at hand was it learned that the teching had been imparted, and even then the occasion arose quite naturally and the teaching made its way in its own right. Under no circumstance did the teacher even claim “I am the successor of So-and-so.” Such a claim would prove quite the contrary. Read the rest of this entry »


    No work no food

    Hyakujo, the Chinese Zen master, used to labor with his pupils even at the age of eighty, trimming the gardens, cleaning the grounds, and pruning the trees.

    The pupils felt sorry to see the old teacher working so hard, but they knew he would not listen to their advice to stop, so they hid away his tools. Read the rest of this entry »


    The traveler and the tigers

    BUDDHA told this parable: A traveler, fleeing a tiger who was
    chasing him, ran till he came to the edge of a cliff. There he
    caught hold of a thick vine, and swung himself over the edge. Read the rest of this entry »


    Gudo and the drunkard

    Gudo was the emperor’s teacher of his time. Nevertheless, he used to travel alone as a wandering mendicant. Once when he was on his way to Edo, the cultural and political center of the shogunate, he approached a little village named Takenaka. It was evening and a heavy rain was falling. Gudo was thoroughly wet. His straw sandals were in pieces. At a farmhouse near the village he noticed four or five pairs of sandals in the window and decided to buy some dry ones. Read the rest of this entry »


    Buddha’s picture

    Tosui was the Zen master who left the formalism of temples to live under a bridge with beggars. When he was getting very old, a friend helped him earn his living without begging. Read the rest of this entry »


    Shoici and the silent temple

    Shoichi was a one-eyed teacher of Zen, sparkling with enlightenment. He taught his disciples in Tofuku temple. Read the rest of this entry »