8 Zen Master Stories That Illustrate Important Truths

You probably heard some of these, maybe all. I thought about stories that touched me or made a big impression and that came from Zen or Taoists masters. Here are the eight I compiled. Do you have others you like, that inspire you?

How Fast Can I Learn?

A martial arts student went to a teacher and declared he wanted to learn the system, he was devoted and ready. How long would it take? The teacher replied: “Ten years.”

The student, a bit impatient and not satisfied with the answer went ahead and said: But I want to master it faster than that, I will work every hard, practice 10 or more hours a day if necessary. How long would it THEN take? The teacher replied: “Twenty years.”

I Left Her At The River

A senior and junior monk are walking down a path together and they come to a river with a strong current. As they prepare to cross they see a young, beautiful woman in need of help to brave the waters. She notices the monks and asks for help. The senior monk carries the woman on his shoulder and lets her gently down on the other bank. They part ways. The junior monk is upset.

Hours go by and the senior monk noticing the discomfort on the younger monk asks: Is something in your mind? The junior monk says: “As monks we are not permitted to touch a woman, how could you carry her across the river?” – The senior monk replies: “I left the woman hours ago at the bank, however, you seem to still be carrying her”.

8 Zen Master Stories That Strike A Nerve Because Of The Truth In Them
Must remember to leave her at the river. / Shutterstock

The Difference Between Pain and Suffering

There is a Buddhist teaching that says that when you get hurt, say, by an arrow, that is pain. The arrow hitting your arm, it hurts. Pain. However, there is a second arrow, which is your reaction to the arrow, the getting angry, the planning revenge, that is beyond pain, that is suffering.

Is That So?

I learned this story from A New Earth, Tolle’s book, which I keep reading and re-reading:

There was a zen master who enjoyed a good reputation in his community. One day the neighbors came to his door enraged and furious, accusing him of having fathered the child that their teenager was about to bear.

The zen master said: “Is That So”? The rumors ran wild and the master lost his reputation. A few months later the child was born and the baby was brought to the zen master, who accepted and cared for him or her.

A year later the daughter of the neighbors admitted that the father was actually the butcher of the town. The parents, mortified, went back to the Zen master’s house and confessed, apologized and asked for the child back. The zen master said: Is that so? – then returned the baby.

Nobody In The Boat

The Taoists have a famous teaching about an empty boat that rams into your boat in the middle of a river. While you probably wouldn’t be angry at an empty boat, you might well become enraged if someone were at its helm.

The point of the story is that the parents who didn’t see you, the other kids who teased you as a child, the driver who aggressively tailgated you yesterday – are all in fact empty, rudderless boats. They were compulsively driven to act as they did by their own unexamined wounds, therefore they did not know what they were doing and had little control over it.

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

Just as an empty boat that rams into us isn’t targeting us, so too people who act unkindly are driven along by the unconscious force of their own wounding and pain.

Until we realize this, we will remain prisoners of our grievance, our past, and our victim identity, all of which keep us from opening to the more powerful currents of life and love that are always flowing through the present moment.

Archery

A Zen Master observing students at archery practice notices one of them who is consistently missing the mark, and says: “It is his desire to win that drains him of power.”

Psychiatry

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

Moving to a New City

I heard this one a long time ago.

There was a person coming to a new village, relocating, and he was wondering if he would like it there, so he went to the zen master and asked: do you think I will like it in this village? Are the people nice?

The master asked back: How were the people on the town where you come from? “They were nasty and greedy, they were angry and lived for cheating and stealing,” said the newcomer.

Those are exactly the type of people we have in this village, said the master.

8 Zen Master Stories That Strike A Nerve Because Of The Truth In Them
Shutterstock

Another newcomer to the village visited the master and asked the same question, to which the master asked: How were the people in the town where you come from? “They were sweet and lived in harmony, they cared for one another and for the land, they respected each other and they were seekers of spirit,” he replied.

Those are exactly the type of people we have in this village, said the master. TC mark

More From Thought Catalog

A Complete Guided Journal For Healing Your Own Life

This is your life.

You are the only one who decides how it goes.

Click Here
8 Zen Master Stories That Illustrate Important Truths is cataloged in , , ,
  • http://sanityofinsanity.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/8-zen-master-stories-that-illustrate-important-truths/ 8 Zen Master Stories That Illustrate Important Truths | Sanity of Insanity

    […] 8 Zen Master Stories That Illustrate Important Truths […]

  • Thought Catalog

    Reblogged this on Happy Camper Blog.

  • Thought Catalog

    Reblogged this on eloquentzen.

  • http://jrfibonacci.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/part-2-of-2-on-zen-advaita-jnana-yoga/ part 2 of 2: Moderation in Zen / Advaita / Jnana Yoga | power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci

    […] 8 Zen Master Stories That Illustrate Important Truths (thoughtcatalog.com) […]

  • http://thetreelines.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/8-zen-master-stories-that-illustrate-important-truths/ 8 Zen Master Stories That Illustrate Important Truths | Compassion

    […] 8 Zen Master Stories That Illustrate Important Truths https://thoughtcatalog.com/2013/8-zen-master-stories-that-illustrate-important-truths/ […]

  • Thought Catalog

    Reblogged this on Turn to page 394..

  • Thought Catalog

    Reblogged this on helloyensil.

  • http://nigelobiya669.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/life-and-death-freestyle-write-part-2/ Life and Death… freestyle write, part 2 | MIND TRIP

    […] 8 Zen Master Stories That Illustrate Important Truths (thoughtcatalog.com) […]

  • http://www.adaobiokwy.com/2013/04/28/claudia-azula-altucher-8-zen-master-stories-that-illustrate-important-truths/ Claudia Azula Altucher: 8 Zen Master Stories That Illustrate Important Truths

    […] I love thoughtcatalogue? Here’s another interesting read for everyone to learn something from. (This is shown here as […]

  • https://thoughtcatalog.com/christine-stockton/2013/11/5-rules-worth-remember-when-dealing-with-haters/ 5 Rules Worth Remember When Dealing With Haters | Thought Catalog

    […] life and need help not letting their negativity get to you, try to think about them in terms of the empty boats zen master story. They aren’t attacking you, personally, they’re just running into stuff that happens to […]

  • http://donkis.net/2013/11/5-rules-worth-remembering-when-dealing-with-haters/ 5 Rules Worth Remembering When Dealing With Haters….. |

    […] and need help not letting their negativity get to you, try to think about them in terms of the empty boats zen master story. They aren’t attacking you, personally, they’re just running into stuff that happens to be […]

  • http://ufhonorsfirstyear.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/feeling-completely-whelmed/ Feeling Completely Whelmed | UF Honors: The First Year

    […] The point of the story is that the parents who didn’t see you, the other kids who teased you as a child, the driver who aggressively tailgated you yesterday – are all in fact empty, rudderless boats. They were compulsively driven to act as they did by their own unexamined wounds, therefore they did not know what they were doing and had little control over it. (Source) […]

  • https://thoughtcatalog.com/anonymous/2013/10/retarded-is-just-a-word/ ‘Retarded’ Is Just A Word | Thought Catalog

    […] don’t want to emphasize that external circumstances can change your internal health. There’s a zen story about being in a boat in the middle of a lake. If someone hits your boat with their boat, you’d be pissed. But, if an empty boat happened to […]

  • https://thoughtcatalog.com/christine-stockton/2015/04/50-simple-mini-habits-that-actually-help-with-anxiety/ 50 Simple Mini-Habits That Actually Help With Anxiety | Thought Catalog

    […] 48. Read a zen story. […]

  • http://www.blog.arghh.net/aj/?p=2254 pinboard November 9, 2015 — arghh.net

    […] 8 Zen Master Stories That Illustrate Important Truths | Thought Catalog […]

  • http://wolfcatworkshop.com/index.php/the-forest/ the forest |

    […] -as told by Claudia Altucher […]

  • http://www.city-data.com/forum/atheism-agnosticism/2631855-former-believers-do-you-have-feelings-5.html#post45321070 Former believers: do you have feelings of self-hatred? - Atheism and Agnosticism -  - Page 5 - City-Data Forum

    […] […]

blog comments powered by Disqus