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What is for dinner? How are you doing? What is on your mind. If you are new to Street Prophets please introduce yourself below in a comment. This is an Open Thread / Coffee Hour and all topics of conversation are welcome. Today's Coffee Hour is brought to you by Three Zen Stories.

If you are new to Street Prophets please introduce yourself beyond the fold in a comment. This is an Open Thread / Coffee Hour and all topics of conversation are welcome.

Ritual Cat
When the spiritual teacher and his disciples began their evening meditation, the cat who lived in the monastery made such noise that it distracted them. So the teacher ordered that the cat be tied up during the evening practice. Years later, when the teacher died, the cat continued to be tied up during the meditation session. And when the cat eventually died, another cat was brought to the monastery and tied up. Centuries later, learned descendants of the spiritual teacher wrote scholarly treatises about the religious significance of tying up a cat for meditation practice.

Two people are lost in the desert. They are dying from hunger and thirst. Finally, they come to a high wall. On the other side they can hear the sound of a waterfall and birds singing. Above, they can see the branches of a lush tree extending over the top of the wall. Its fruit look delicious.

One of them manages to climb over the wall and disappears down the other side. The other, instead, returns to the desert to help other lost travelers find their way to the oasis.

No More Questions
Upon meeting a Zen master at a social event, a psychiatrist decided to ask him a question that had been on his mind. "Exactly how do you help people?" he inquired.

"I get them where they can’t ask any more questions," the Master answered.

Global Oneness: Zen Stories - Koans

Originally posted to Street Prophets on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 01:06 PM PST.

Also republished by DKos Sangha.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Cookei Jar .... (13+ / 0-)

    What is your favorite Zen story?

    "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

    by linkage on Sun Feb 24, 2013 at 11:07:55 PM PST

  •  There are many good zen stories (9+ / 0-)

    and it really depends on the situation as to which one I prefer.

    But in the online world I have often found that  Trading Dialogue For Lodging is a good one to tell.

    "Do what you can with what you have where you are." - Teddy Roosevelt

    by Andrew C White on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 01:18:06 PM PST

    •  Thank you ... (8+ / 0-)

      Andrew I enjoyed the story.


      "Upward, not Northward" - Flatland, by EA Abbott

      by linkage on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 01:27:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I first encountered that story (7+ / 0-)

      in the wonderful book "Zen Comics" by Ioanna Salajan. Here's one of her wonderful comics:

      Which I swiped out of her book and added the credit line. The same comic and a couple others can be seen on her rather incomplete website. Very few pages have much info but it's worth clicking around.

      “The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.”

      by Marko the Werelynx on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 02:06:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I have heard a very very similar story (10+ / 0-)

      about a silent debate in medieval Europe between a rabbi and a priest.

      The wikipedia entry on Jewish humor retells it as follows:

      One Pope, in the Dark Ages, decreed that all Jews had to leave Rome. The Jews did not want to leave, and so the Pope challenged them to a disputation to prove that they could remain. No one, however, wanted the responsibility... until the synagogue janitor, Moishe, volunteered.

      As there was nobody else who wanted to go, Moishe was given the task. But because he knew only Hebrew, a silent debate was agreed. The day of the debate came, and they went to St. Peter's Square to sort out the decision. First the Pope waved his hand around his head. Moishe pointed firmly at the ground.

      The Pope, in some surprise, held up three fingers. In response, Moishe gave him the middle finger.

      The crowd started to complain, but the Pope thoughtfully waved them to be quiet. He took out a bottle of wine and a wafer, holding them up. Moishe took out an apple, and held it up.

      The Pope, to the people’s surprise, said, "I concede. This man is too good. The Jews can stay."

      Later, the Pope was asked what the debate had meant. He explained, "First, I showed him the Heavens, to show that God is everywhere. He pointed at the ground to signify that God is right here with us. I showed him three fingers, for the Trinity. He reminded me that there is One God common to both our religions. I showed him wine and a wafer, for God's forgiveness. With an apple, he showed me original sin. The man was a master of silent debate."

      In the Jewish corner, Moishe had the same question put to him, and answered, "It was all nonsense, really. First, he told me that this whole town would be free of Jews. I told him, Go to Hell! We’re staying right here! Then, he told me we had three days to get out. I told him just what I thought of that proposal." An older woman asked, "But what about the part at the end?" "That?" said Moishe with a shrug, "Well, I saw him take out his lunch, so I took out mine."

  •  I enjoyed your storys very much. (10+ / 0-)

    I dont know the origin of this story.  Maybe someone knows...but it is a story I was told by my father.

    A man who is skilled in stone cutting was walking home from work.  He was very tied, and wished his life was different.

    He passed the home of a very wealthy merchant, and peeked through the gate.  He saw the merchant's home, very large, the merchant's wife, very beautiful, thier children educated and well behaved, and even the merchant's attendants were dressed better than him.

    He wished he were a wealthy merchant, as he went to bed in his humble home, next to his humble wife.

    The next day, he awakened next to a very beautiful woman,  servents attended them, his children off to school, neat and clean, thier lessons done, and his home large with very expensive furnature.

    He walked outside his gate, he saw merchant and worker, rich and poor bowing along the road.  He heard the sound of symbols and instrumets, and soldiers on elegantly dressed horses commanding people to bow...even him.  He watched, as a powerful politician passed by...and the thought, all that power must be better than even being rich.

    He wished he was a powerful politican as he went to bed that night.

    The next day, he awoke alone, servents still came to attend to him.  Hs breakfast came with papers and pleas, and many people he had to make decisions for.  Some people liked him, but most hated him...but...he spoke a command, and regardless of what it was... it happened.

    It was hot that day, as he looked up at the blazing sun.  He thought...oh how powerful the sun is.  No matter what it does, people tolarate it, and even if they complain, there is nothing they can do.  

    That night, as he went to bed alone, he wished he was the sun.

    The next day he found himself rising in the eastern sky of his villiage.  As he rose in the sky, he looked down upon the partched fields, and remembered there was a drought.  He saw many humble farmers working what was left of thier partched they began to point and smile.  He looked to where the farmers were pointing, and saw a giant cloud, full of rain coming to block him out...and thought how powerful that cloud is...I want to be a cloud. he set in the western sky, he wished to be a cloud.

    The next day, he found himself floating along the sky bringing rain.  He saw that some were happy to see the rain, while others had gotten too much.  He tried to drive himself, but found that he was being pushed by the wind....he thought, how powerful this wind, to be able to go where ever it wants.  I want to be the wind.

    The next day he was the wind, moving clouds, and sometimes too powerful.  Although he could be gentle, sometimes he was harsh, and blew the roofs off people's homes...but there was one thing he could not move....a rock.  He thought, oh how powerful this rock is to withstand my mighty force.  I want to be a rock.

    The next day he was a huge rock.  Nothing could move him.  Nothing more powerful than a rock he thought.

    As the early morning gave to noon, he kept hearing this clinking sound...a sound he knows, but cant quite remember what it was.  He hears a woman's voice he has heard before, but he doesnt remember who she is.

    The clinking noise was constant...and then it suddenly stopped.  He then heard the woman's voice, and the man talking.  He thought, I am the most powerful thing on this earth...what can be more powerful than me now.

    He looked way down...and saw a stone cutter, sitting next to his humble wife as they ate together and enjoyed thier meeting.  After a few minutes of affection, they parted.  The man picked up his tool, and began to chisel into the rock.

    The true strength of of an oath is forged in adversity.

    by Nur Alia Chang on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 02:14:53 PM PST

  •  My fave has always been the (10+ / 0-)

    "Why are you still carrying her?" story. I don't get into most of Buddhism, it's clearly a faith path meant for someone other than me, but holding onto an idea far longer than appropriate...that, I get.

    My favorite personal Pagan story:

    I had a Pagan acquaintance at our local university who was ambushed one day by evangelists. They asked him what religion he was, and he, not feeling very sociable anyhow, pulled out his pentacle from his shirt. They looked at it closely, then one smiled and said, "Ah, so you're Jewish!"

    So our little local Pagan community has always thereafter considered itself honorarily Jewish. :) Here ends the lesson. Go with or without God, whichever way you came in. All rites reversed.

  •  According to my cats, (5+ / 0-)

    it was the monk who was tied up.   :)

  •  One day God was looking down at Earth (7+ / 0-)

    and saw all of the inappropriate behavior that was going on. He decided to send an angel down to Earth to check it out. When the angel returned, he told God, "Yes, it is bad on Earth; 95% are misbehaving and 5% are not."

    God thought for a moment and said, "Maybe I had better send down a second angel to get another opinion." So God called another angel and sent him to Earth for a time.

    When that angel returned he went to God and said, "Yes, it's true. The Earth is in decline; 95% are misbehaving and 5% are being good."

    God was not pleased.

    So while he was debating what to do about the 95%, He decided to E-mail the 5% that were good to encourage them -- give them a little something to help them keep going.

    Do you know what that E-mail said?


    I didn't get one either

    "There ain't no sanity clause." Chico Marx

    by DJ Rix on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 02:43:43 PM PST

  •  Daoist, not Zen, but a favorite (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arizonablue, linkage, Ojibwa, davehouck

    from wiki:

    Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things. (2, tr. Burton Watson 1968:49)

    Dwell on the beauty of life. ~ Marcus Aurelius

    by Joy of Fishes on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 03:30:09 PM PST

  •  Good afternoon (5+ / 0-)

    The Gift of Insults

    There once lived a great warrior. Though quite old, he still was able to defeat any challenger. His reputation extended far and wide throughout the land and many students gathered to study under him.

    One day an infamous young warrior arrived at the village. He was determined to be the first man to defeat the great master. Along with his strength, he had an uncanny ability to spot and exploit any weakness in an opponent. He would wait for his opponent to make the first move, thus revealing a weakness, and then would strike with merciless force and lightning speed. No one had ever lasted with him in a match beyond the first move.

    Much against the advice of his concerned students, the old master gladly accepted the young warrior's challenge. As the two squared off for battle, the young warrior began to hurl insults at the old master. He threw dirt and spit in his face. For hours he verbally assaulted him with every curse and insult known to mankind. But the old warrior merely stood there motionless and calm. Finally, the young warrior exhausted himself. Knowing he was defeated, he left feeling shamed.

    Somewhat disappointed that he did not fight the insolent youth, the students gathered around the old master and questioned him. "How could you endure such an indignity? How did you drive him away?"

    "If someone comes to give you a gift and you do not receive it," the master replied, "to whom does the gift belong?"

    Was President Obama channeling this Zen Story when he said "Proceed, Governor" to Mitt Romney?
  •  I've enjoyed reading the stories! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Joy of Fishes, linkage, 2thanks

    Thanks to all.

    Love one another

    by davehouck on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 04:49:47 PM PST

  •  A Zen-Like Story by Sherman Alexie (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything even remotely true." -- H. Simpson

    by midnight lurker on Mon Feb 25, 2013 at 06:43:00 PM PST

  •  Weird (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    For some reason, my sangha (community of buddhists studying together) doesn't tell many Zen stories. Not sure why.

    It's not that we don't have a sense of humor.

  •  Nothing holy : tales of Zen buddhist scoundrels (0+ / 0-)

    Nothing holy : tales of Zen buddhist scoundrels is a book by a friend that collects a bunch of Zen stories. I don't know whether he collected them from various sources or invented them, but they're pretty sharp.

    At my poetry group Sunday night we were discussing the word "pond." The poet asked if we thought "pool" might be better in the poem than "pond." As I knew she was a Buddhist I said I preferred "pond," partly because of Basho's famous haiku with the frog jumping into the "old pond." The poet said, "Oh, but that's Zen. I'm a Tibetan Buddhist. In Tibetan Buddhism pools are big."

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