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1. Teaching the Ultimate

Teaching the Ultimate

In early times in Japan, bamboo-and-paper lanterns were used with candles inside. A blind man, visiting a friend one night, was offered a lantern to carry home with him. "I do not need a lantern," he said. "Darkness or light is all the same to me." "I know you do not need a lantern to find your way," his friend replied, "but if you don't have one, someone else may run into you. So you must take it." The blind man started off with the lantern and before he had walked very far someone ran squarely into him. "Look out where you are going!" he exclaimed to the stranger. "Can't you see this lantern?" "Your candle has burned out, brother," replied the stranger.

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2. Muddy Road

Muddy Road

Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection."Come on, girl" said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. "We monks don't go near females," he told Tanzan, "especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?""I left the girl there," said Tanzan. "Are you still carrying her?"

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3. Shoun & His Mother

Shoun & His Mother

Shoun became a teacher of Soto Zen. When he was still a student his father passed away, leaving him to care for his old mother. Whenever Shoun went to a meditation hall he always took his mother with him. Since she accompanied him, when he visited monasteries he could not live with the monks. So he would built a little house and care for her there. He would copy sutras, Buddhist verses, and in this manner receive a few coins for food. When Shoun bought fish for his mother, the people would scoff at him, for a monk is not supposed to eat fish. But Shoun did not mind. His mother, however, was hurt to see others laugh at her son. Finally she told Shoun: "I think I will become a nun. I can be vegetarian too." She did, and they studied together. Shoun was fond of music and was a master of the harp, which his mother also played. On full-moon nights they used to play together. One night a young lady passed by their house and heard music. Deeply touched, she invited Shoun to visit her the next evening and play. He accepted the invitation. A few days later he met the young lady on the street and thanked her for her hospitality. Others laughed at him. He had visited the house of a woman of the streets. One day Shoun left for a distant temple to deliver a lecture. A few months afterwards he returned home to find his mother dead. Friends had not known where to reach him, so the funeral was in progress. Shoun walked up and hit the coffin with his staff. "Mother, your son has returned," he said. "I am glad to see you have returned, son," he answered for his mother. "Yes, I am glad too," Shoun responded. Then he announced to the people around him: "The funeral ceremony is over. You may bury the body." When Shoun was old he knew his end was approaching. He asked his disciples to gather around him in the morning, telling them he was going to pass on at noon. Burning incense before the picture of his mother and his old teacher, he wrote a poem: For fifty-six years I lived as best I could, Making my way in this world. Now the rain has ended, the clouds are clearing, The blue sky has a full moon. His disciples gathered around him, reciting sutra, and Shoun passed on during the invocation.

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4. Ten Successors

Ten Successors

Zen pupils take a vow that even if they are killed by their teacher, they intend to learn Zen. Usually they cut a finger and seal their resolution with blood. In time the vow has become a mere formality, and for this reason the pupil who died by the hand of Ekido was made to appear a martyr. Ekido had become a severe teacher. His pupils feared him. One of them on duty, striking the gong to tell the time of day, missed his beats when his eye was attracted by a beautiful girl passing the temple gate. At that moment Ekido, who was directly behind him, hit him with a stick and the shock happened to kill him. The pupil's guardian, hearing of the accident, went directly to Ekido. Knowing that he was not to blame, he praised the master for his severe teaching. Ekido's attitude was just the same as if the pupil were still alive. After this took place, he was able to produce under his guidance more than ten enlightened successors, a very unusual number.

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5. The Giver Should Be Thankful

The Giver Should Be Thankful

While Seisetsu was the master of Engaku in Kamakura he required larger quarters, since those in which he was teaching were overcrowded. Umezu Seibei, a merchant of Edo, decided to donate five hundred pieces of gold called ryo toward the construction of a more commodious school. This money he brought to the teacher. Seisetsu said: "All right. I will take it." Umezu gave Seisetsu the sack of gold, but he was dissatisfied with the attitude of the teacher. One might live a whole year on three ryo, and the merchant had not even been thanked for five hundred. "In that sack are five hundred ryo," hinted Umezu. "You told me that before," replied Seisetsu. "Even if I am a wealthy merchant, five hundred ryo is a lot of money," said Umezu. "Do you want me to thank you for it?" asked Seisetsu. "You ought to," replied Uzemu. Why should I?" inquired Seisetsu. "The giver should be thankful."

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6. The Moon Cannot Be Stolen

The Moon Cannot Be Stolen

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal. Ryokan returned and caught him. "You have come a long way to visit me," he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift." The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away. Ryoken sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon."

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7. The Dead Man's Answer

The Dead Man's Answer

When Mamiya, who later became a well-known preacher, went to a teacher for personal guidance, he was asked to explain the sound of one hand. Mamiya concentrated upon what the sound of one hand might be. "You are not working hard enough," his teacher told him. "You are too attached to food, wealth, things, and that sound. It would be better if you died. That would solve the problem." The next time Mamiya appeared before his teacher he was again asked what he had to show regarding the sound of one hand. Mamiya at once fell over as if he were dead. "You are dead all right," observed the teacher, "But how about that sound?" "I haven't solved that yet," replied Mamiya, looking up. "Dead men do not speak," said the teacher. "Get out!"

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8. Midnight Excursion

Midnight Excursion

Many Zen pupils were studing meditation under the Zen master Sengai. One of them used to arise at night, climb over the temple wall, and go to town on a pleasure jaunt. Sengai, inspecting the dormitory quarters, found this pupil missing one night and also discovered the high stool he had used to scale the well. Sengai removed the stool and stood there in its place. When the wanderer returned, not knowing that Sengai was the stool, he put his feet on the master's head and jumped down into the grounds. Discovering what he had done, he was aghast. Sengai said: "It is very chilly in the early morning. Do be careful not to catch cold yourself." The pupil never went out at night again.

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9. The Thief Who Became a Disciple

The Thief Who Became a Disciple

One evening as Shichiri Kojun was reciting sutras a thief with a sharp sword entered, demanding wither his money or his life. Shichiri told him: "Do not disturb me. You can find the money in that drawer." Then he resumed his recitation. A little while afterwards he stopped and called: "Don't take it all. I need some to pay taxes with tomorrow." The intruder gathered up most of the money and started to leave. "Thank a person when you receive a gift," Shichiri added. The man thanked him and made off. A few days afterwards the fellow was caught and confessed, among others, the offense against Shichiri. When Shichiri was called as a witness he said: "This man is no thief, at least as far as I am concerned. I gave him the money and he thanked me for it." After he had finished his prison term, the man went to Shichiri and became his disciple.

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10. Happy Chinaman

Happy Chinaman

Anyone walking about Chinatowns in America will observe statues of a stout fellow carrying a linen sack. Chinese merchants call him Happy Chinaman or Laughing Buddha. This Hotei lived in the T'ang dynasty. He had no desire to call himself a Zen master or to gather many disciples about him. Instead he walked the streets with a big sack into which he would put gifts of candy, fruit, or doughnuts. These he would give to children who gathered around him in play. He established a kindergarten of the streets. Whenever he met a Zen devotee he would extend his hand and say: "Givewme one penny." And if anyone asked him to return to a temple to teach others, again he would reply: "Give me one penny." Once he was about his play-work when another Zen master happened along and inquired: "What is the significance of Zen?" Hotei immediately plopped his sack down on the ground in silent answer. "Then," asked the other, "what is the actualization of Zen?" At once the Happy Chinaman swung the sack over his shoulder and continued on his way.

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11. A Drop of Water

A Drop of Water

A Zen master named Gisan asked a young student to bring him a pail of water to cool his bath. The student brought the water and, after cooling the bath, threw on to the ground the little that was left over. "You dunce!" the master scolded him. "Why didn't you give the rest of the water to the plants? What right have you to waste even a drop of water in this temple?" The young student attained Zen in that instant. He changed his name to Tekisui, which means a drop of water.

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12. Not Far From Buddhahood

Not Far From Buddhahood

A university student while visiting Gasan asked him: "Have you ever read the Christian Bible?" "No, read it to me," said Gasan. The student opened the Bible and read from St. Matthew: "And why take ye thought for rainment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these... Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself." Gasan said: "Whoever uttered those words I consider an enlightened man." The student continued reading: "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." Gasan remarked: "That is excellent. Whoever said that is not far from Buddhahood."

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13. Fire-Poker Zen

Fire-Poker Zen

Hakuin used to tell his pupils about an old woman who had a teashop, praising her understanding of Zen. The pupils refused to believe what he told them and would go to the teashop to find out for themselves. Whenever the woman saw them coming she could tell at once whether they had come for tea or to look into her grasp of Zen. In the former case, she would server them graciously. In the latter, she would beckon to the pupils to come behind her screen. The instant they obeyed, she would strike them with a fire-poker. Nine out of ten of them could not escape her beating.

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14. The Gates of Paradise

The Gates of Paradise

A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin, and asked: "Is there really a paradise and a hell?" "Who are you?" inquired Hakuin. "I am a samurai," the warrior replied. "You, a soldier!" exclaimed Hakuin. "What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face looks like that of a beggar." Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued: "So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head." As Nobushige drew his sword Hakuin remarked: "Here open the gates of hell!" At these words the samurai, perceiving the master's discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed. "Here open the gates of paradise," said Hakuin.

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15. Black-Nosed Buddha

Black-Nosed Buddha

A nun who was searching for enlightenment made a statue of Buddha and covered it with gold leaf. Wherever she went she carried this golden Buddha with her. Years passed and, still carrying her Buddha, the nun came to live in a small temple in a country where there were many Buddhas, each one with its own particular shrine. The nun wished to burn incense before her golden Buddha. Not liking the idea of the perfume straying to the others, she devised a funnel through which the smoke would ascend only to her statue. This blackened the nose of the golden Buddha, making it especially ugly.

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16. Zen Dialogue

Zen Dialogue

Zen teachers train their young pupils to express themselves. Two Zen temples each had a child protege. One child, going to obtain vegetables each morning, would meet the other on the way. "Where are you going?" asked the one. "I am going wherever my feet go," the other responded. This reply puzzled the first child who went to his teacher for help. "Tomorrow morning," the teacher told him, "when you meet that little fellow, ask him the same question. He will give you the same answer, and then you ask him: 'Suppose you have no feet, then where are you going?' That will fix him." The children met again the following morning. "Where are you going?" asked the first child. "I am going wherever the wind blows," answered the other. This again nonplussed the youngster, who took his defeat to the teacher. Ask him where he is going if there is no wind," suggested the teacher. The next day the children met a third time. "Where are you going?" asked the first child. "I am going to the market to buy vegetables," the other replied.

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17. Tosui's Vinegar

Tosui's Vinegar

Mr. Amida Buddha: This little room is quite narrow. I can let you remain as a transient. But don't think I am asking you to help me to be reborn in your paradise.

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18. Joshu's Zen

Joshu's Zen

Joshu began the study of Zen when he was sixty years old and continued until he was eighty, when he realized Zen. He taught from the age of eighty until he was one hundred and twenty. A student once asked him: "If I haven't anything in my mind, what shall I do?" Joshu replied: "Throw it out." "But if I haven't anything, how can I throw it out?" continued the questioner. "Well," said Joshu, "then carry it out."

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19. Right & Wrong

Right & Wrong

When Bankei held his seclusion-weeks of meditation, pupils from many parts of Japan came to attend. During one of these gatherings a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to Bankei with the request that the culprit be expelled. Bankei ignored the case. Later the pupil was caught in a similar act, and again Bankei disregarded the matter. This angered the other pupils, who drew up a petition asking for the dismissal of the thief, stating that otherwise they would leave in a body. When Bankei had read the petition he called everyone before him. "You are wise brothers," he told them. "You know what is right and what is not right. You may go somewhere else to study if you wish, but this poor brother does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here even if all the rest of you leave." A torrent of tears cleansed the face of the brother who had stolen. All desire to steal had vanished.

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20. In Dreamland

In Dreamland

It was extremely hot one day so some of us took a nap. Our school master scolded us. 'We went to dreamland to meet the ancient sages the same as Confucius did', we explained. 'What was the message from those sages?' our school master demanded. One of us replied: 'We went to dreamland and met the sages and asked them if our schoolmaster came there every afternoon, but they said they had never seen any such fellow.'

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