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The 3 Most Inspirational Zen Stories

Updated on June 22, 2012

I always enjoyed the deep meaning and inspirational power of zen stories. Many of them are really thought-provoking and it makes sense to ponder about them and to see the often hidden message. The goal is always to help the reader to get to a deeper level of understanding and to realize important steps along the way of personal growth. More often than not they teach you to be present in the moment.

Here is a selection of 3 of the most inspiring zen stories which I selected from the collection of the 10 very best Zen stories.


1. Maybe

The first zen storie is "Maybe". Here it is:

Once upon the time there was an old farmer who, for many many years, worked on his farm. One day it happened that his only horse ran away from him. When his neighbors heard the news, they immediately came to visit the farmer and called out: “Such bad luck!”.

“Maybe,” the old farmer replied.

No long, the horse returned again. Not only that, it even brought three other wild horses along. “What a luck!” his neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe” was the farmers response.

After a while the farmers son tried to ride one of the wild horses. He was thrown by the untamed horse and broke his leg. Again his neighbors came and started to spread the word about his misfortune.

“Maybe” was his answer again.

The day after that, some military officials visited the village to draft young and strong men into the army. But since his son’s leg was broken, the officials passed him by. The neighbors were surprised how nicely things had turned out and congratulated the farmer.

“Maybe” was all he said.

Non-Judgement: The wise farmer - unlike his neighbors - does not judge the events as good or bad. He practices non-judgement and therefore avoids the trap of labeling something in the mind. The meaning we put on events is relative and always subjective.


2. Is That So

The Zen master Hakuin was well-known and recognized among his village as one living a pure life.

A beautiful young girl always lived near his house. Suddenly her parents realized that she was pregnant, which made them very mad. But she was afraid and would not confess the father of the child. But since her parents didn't give in, she finally named master Hakuin. In great anger the parents went to Hakuin.

"Is that so?" was his only reply.

Right after the new child was born, the parents came to Hakuin and demanded that he fulfills his responsibility and takes care of the child. By then the master lost all of his good reputation in the village already.

Calmly accepting the child, "Is that so?" was all Hakuin added.

After a whole year the mother couldn't hold to her lie any longer and confessed to her parents that the young man at the local fishmarket was the real father.

The parents rushed to Hakuin to apologize and asked for his forgiveness which he granted. Then they demanded to get the child back.

Acceptance: The Zen master practices acceptance. He is only present in the moment and accepts it as it is.

Non-Resistance: He also practices non-resistance. He is not resisting what is presented and so there is no suffering in what he does. He takes lovingly care of the child when it's needed, and he gives it away when things have changed.


3. The Burden

On a very rainy day a younger and an elder monk were returning to their monastery. The streets were filled with puddles of water. A young woman patiently waited on one side of the road since she wasn't able to cross the puddles of water. So the elder monk helped her getting across and lifted her to the other side of the road. After that both monks calmly started to continue their way.

But in the evening the younger monk couldn't stand it any longer. So he came up to the elder asking: "I thought as monks we aren't allowed to touch women!?"

"That is true, brother." the elder monk replied.

That didn't satisfy the younger monk at all: "But Sir, how come you carried the woman to the other side?"
Silently, the elder monk started to smile. After a while he answers the young: "I dropped her on the other side, but you are still carrying her."

Being present: The elder monk teaches his pupil a lesson of being totally in the present moment. Dropping the burden of past and future, which include suffering due to their impermanent nature, centers us in the present.

What is your opinion:

Which of the 4 qualities is hardest for you to maintain?

See results

More on Spirituality and Personal Development

I hope you liked the 3 little stories and they made you consciously think. Those 4 qualities: non-resistance, non-judgement, acceptance and finally being present are also core parts of spirituality.

You will find more insights on my personal blog Personal Development that Transforms.


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    • Shernae Grey profile image

      Adrestia Chet 3 months ago from Bahamas

      I love this! Im just getting into Zen Stories and came across 2 of the 3 you mentioned here. It’s hard to pick a favourite among them all. Simple and profound they are. Great Article!

    • profile image

      Avanceña 4 years ago

      putangina mo

    • Jlava73 profile image

      Jennifer Vasconcelos 5 years ago from Cyberspace and My Own World

      Awesome Hub! VUAS

    • Myrko Thum profile image

      Myrko Thum 5 years ago from Berlin, Germany

      Thanks Daisy. Already thinking about the next one...

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 5 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)


      Welcome to HubPages. I enjoyed reading this Hub very much. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 5 years ago from Tennesee

      I enjoyed reading the stories and thanks for posting.