Saturday, April 26, 2003

Two Zen Stories (Zen Flesh, Zen Bones)

Real Prosperity
A rich man asked Sengai to write something for
the continued prosperity of his family so that
it might be treasured from generation to generation.

Sengai obtained a large sheet of paper and wrote:
“Father dies, son dies, grandson dies.”

The rich man became angry. “I asked you to write
something for the happiness of my family! Why
do you make such a joke as this?”

“No joke is intended,” explained Sengai. “If before
you yourself die your son should die, this would
grieve you greatly. If your grandson should pass
away before your son, both of you would be broken-
hearted. If your family, generation after generation,
passes away in the order I have named, it will be
the natural course of life. I call this real prosperity.”

The Stone Mind
Hogen, a Chinese Zen teacher, lived alone in a
small temple in the country. One day four traveling
monks appeared and asked if they might make a
fire in his yard to warm themselves.

While they were building the fire, Hogen heard
them arguing about subjectivity and objectivity.
He joined them and said: “There is a big stone.
Do you consider it to be inside or outside your

One of the monks replied: “From the Buddist
viewpoint everything is an objectification of
mind, so I would say that the stone is inside my

“Your head must feel very heavy,” observed
Hogen, “if you are carrying around a stone like
that in your mind.”

from 101 Zen Stories Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
compiled by Paul Reps (1939)

Weeds at my fence -- are they in my mind?

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