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Zen Stories

Updated on October 8, 2015


I am very fond of Zen stories. I came to know about Zen in OSHO's books. Beloved Osho has related many Zen stories in His discourses.

Here is how Beloved Osho described Zen.....

The Indian genius reached its highest peak in Gautam the Buddha and the Chinese genius reached its highest peak in Lao Tzu. And the meeting...the essence of Buddha's teaching and the essence of Lao Tzu's teaching merged into one stream so deeply that no separation is possible now.

Even to make a distinction between what belongs to Buddha and what to Lao Tzu is impossible, the merger has been so total. It is not only a synthesis, it is an integration. Out of this meeting Zen was born. Zen is neither Buddhist nor Taoist and yet both.

Zen is neither interested in the past nor in the future. Its total interest is in the present. Maybe that's why the miracle is possible, because the past and the future are bridged by the present.

The present is not part of time. Have you ever thought about it? How long is the present? The past has a duration, the future has a duration. What is the duration of the present? How long does it last? Between the past and the future can you measure the present? It is immeasurable; it is almost not. It is not time at all: it is the penetration of eternity into time.

And Zen lives in the present. The whole teaching is: how to be in the present, how to get out of the past which is no more and how not to get involved in the future which is not yet, and just to be rooted, centered, in that which is. The whole approach of Zen is of immediacy, but because of that it can bridge the past and the future. It can bridge many things: it can bridge the past and the future, it can bridge the East and the West, it can bridge body and soul. It can bridge the unbridgeable worlds: this world and that, the mundane and the sacred.

Be relaxed with...........

Zen Story 1

A Zen master teaches his disciples how to paint. Painting is the medium through which he really leads his disciples into meditation. One can travel to meditation from anywhere and everywhere. There is no point in the world from where you cannot make a start for meditation. This master has ten disciples who are gathered round him one morning. He tells them, "Go and make a picture whose broad outlines should be like this. There is a cow in a grassy land, and the cow is grazing. You have to paint it, but remember, the painting has to have no form, no attributes."

The disciples find themselves in great difficulty. It is the job of a master to put his disciples in difficulty, in crisis, because only in crisis can they become aware of themselves. The disciples find it extremely hard to paint a picture without form and attributes; it seems an impossible task. They have to use lines and colors. They have to give the cow some form; they have to show the grass all over the field.

Nine of the ten disciples attempt to paint and the next day return with some sort of paintings which don't have any clear-cut outlines, everything is hazy and unclear. But a sort of cow is there in each painting. In drawing the grass, they certainly made use of abstract art so it is formless as much as possible. Nevertheless, they have to use colors of some sort.

Inspecting each other's paintings, a disciple asks one of his friends, "Where is the cow?"

The other says, "I had some idea of a cow when I was in the process of painting, but now I cannot say where the cow is."

And the master rejects all nine pictures saying, "How can you have color and a cow in a painting that has to be without form and attributes?"

The tenth disciple has just a blank sheet of paper in his hand, and the master says, "Yes, this is it."

The nine disciples who have attempted to paint feel disappointed and they protest, "Where is the cow?"

The master says, "The cow went home after grazing."

"And where is the grass?" they protest further.

The master says, "The cow ate it up. So things have gone back to their original places. Things have returned to their unmanifest state. This is really painting without form and attributes. It shows a cow who is finished grazing and a plot of grass the cow has eaten up. Empty space, just space is there."

Self Nature

At its deepest level self nature is without any form, without any attributes; it is utter emptiness. It becomes manifest with the grass appearing and the cow coming to graze on it. Then the play of attributes happens. And it all becomes unmanifest once again after the cow has eaten up the grass.

This vast expanse of our world was born out of emptiness, which is without form, and it will return to the same emptiness. Everything appears and disappears, but the source is the same emptiness, the immense void. And the whole is hidden in that emptiness which by its nature cannot have a name, a shape and an adjective.

In this sense, self-nature, like everything else, has two states: the manifest and the unmanifest. While the manifest has a name and form, attributes, the unmanifest has none whatsoever.

Zen Story 2

It is said of one Zen master, one Zen sage.... He lived in a small hut three or four miles outside a village. One night he found that a thief had entered his hut. He was very much disturbed, because there was nothing in the house, and this thief had traveled for three or four miles in the night and he would have to go back empty handed. The sage started weeping and crying. The thief also became concerned. He said, "What has happened? Why are you crying so much? Are you disturbed that I may take something from your hut?"

The sage said, "No, that is not the thing, I am disturbed because there is nothing here. At least you could have been a little more gentlemanly, you could have informed me before; I would have arranged something for you to steal. There is nothing - what will you think of me? And this is such an honor, that you traveled three or four miles in this night, this cold night, to come to my hut. No one has given such an honor to me before. I am just a beggar and you have made me a king, just by the idea that something can be stolen from me. And there is nothing, so I am crying. So what should I do now? You can take my blanket."

He had only one blanket, otherwise he was naked, just under his blanket he was naked. And the night was very cold. He said to the thief, "Please have some compassion on me and don't say no, because I have nothing else to give to you. Take this blanket, and whenever you again think of visiting, just send a hint. I am poor, but still I will arrange something."

The thief could not understand what was happening, but he saw the man crying and weeping so he took compassion on him; he couldn't say no. He took the blanket and disappeared. And that night this Zen monk wrote a small haiku, in which he said... he was sitting still at his window, the night was cool, cold, the full moon was in the sky, and he says in his haiku:

God if I could give this moon to that thief....

This is the mind of a sage, or, the no-mind. With this same sage, again a thief happened to come to his hut. He was writing a letter, so he looked at the thief and said, "For what have you come? What do you want?"

And this sage was so innocent that even the thief couldn't tell a lie. So he said, "Looking at you, so mirror-like, so innocent like a child, I cannot tell a lie. Should I tell the truth?"

The sage said, "Yes."

He said, "I have come to steal something."

The sage said, "There in that corner I have got a few rupees. You can take them" - and then he started to write his letter again.

The thief took the money, was trying to go out, and then the sage said, "Stop! When somebody gives you something you should thank him. The money may not be of much help, but thanking a person will go a long way and will be of help to you. So thank me!" The thief thanked him and disappeared into the dark.

Later on the thief was caught, and it was discovered that he had been to this sage's hut also, so the sage was called to the court. The sage said, "Yes, I know this man very well - but he has never stolen anything from me. I gave him some rupees and he thanked me for them. It is finished, it was nothing wrong. The whole thing is finished, the account is closed. I gave him some money and he thanked me for it. He is not a thief."

Welcome to the Inner World...........

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    • SANJAY LAKHANPAL profile image

      Sanjay Sharma 2 years ago from Mandi (HP) India

      I too appreciate and admire the Zen maters. I have a nice collection of their stories. While defining the past, present and future, Aurobindo Ghosh the great Indian philosopher, said, " there is no present and the difference between past and future is very minute. The present moment is there, but at the same time it is not there".

      The time we utter a word it becomes past. So present is a fraction of time and the measure of this fraction is immeasurable. The limit of that fraction tends to infinity.

    • profile image

      inspirationz 5 years ago

      I love reading stories with wisdom in them! Thank you for sharing :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I appreciate your dedication to the spiritual life.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very nice read. Thanks for sharing. :)

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 6 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      thanks for the great stories

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Very inspiring stories. There's so much to learn.