Chicken-Flavored Soup for the Druid’s Soul


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Green Book

Of Meditations

Volume Five
Chicken-Flavored Soup

for the Druid’s Soul


This collection is a bit of a hodgepodge of stories that I have come across since completing Green Book Volume 4 in 1998, but lacks the decisive pattern in its presentation. I hope that you will enjoy the selections and find them of use. There is a greater selection of humor in this volume than is usual, and I hope that you will not take deep offense if one of them pokes fun at you.

As always, I hope that what seems like a simple ha-ha joke will also appear as an “a-ha” joke. To me, some times, even the most simple questions has seemed like an impenetrable whistle. Why did I collected these stories? It is one thing to have knowledge and another thing to possess wisdom. I can collect all the mysteries in the world, but unless I can penetrate even one, it seems a sorry waste of time, doesn’t it? But how can I collect mysteries, unless I can spot them in the first place? Perhaps I am not too far without hope. I hope that you will enjoy them too.

Being in D.C. is an unusual experience of big-city life away from the suburbs and rural towns of the last 15 years. I am more limited in my excusions into heavy nature and I have withdrawn a bit into Graduate school studies and full-time work. To balance this, I’ve done more research and sought stories to inspire me.

The selections represent a window into my own personal search. My ongoing fascination with monastic life and Zen is again well represented here. The wry Sufi humor resurfaces yet again. A large collection of religious humor, hopefully will be appreciated. Hazlenuts is a collection of stories circulated by other Druids in the Reform over the last 20 years. The Book of Self-Motivation is for those Druids having difficulties in life. The Book of Booze and Book of Al-Anon deal with Alcohol. The Book of Ultimate Answers is transferred from Part Nine in the original collection and will hopefully be more in style next to the aforementioned books. The Nightingale Story is a wonderful story that I couldn’t pass up sharing with you. The Jedi Collection is also a transplant from Part Nine in ARDA and will be completed in 2003 after the release of the final movie. Finally, I had reservations on releasing the Book of Religious Freedom, as it is a political tract that may not sit well with some members; but might prove a useful tool for Druids involved in political movements to preserve religious freedom in these trying times. But living in D.C., I couldn’t help but become involved in the Church & State issues.


Mike Scharding

Washington, DC

July 16, 2002

Drynemetum Press

Table of Contents

Introductory Materials -197


Table of Contents
Monky Business - 201


Time To Learn

Bell Teacher

Two Rabbits


Duke and the Wheelwright:

Shield and Spear

The Flute Player

Blind Man’s Lantern

The Umbrella

And Then What is There?

Is That So?

Two Words

The Art of Burglary

The Burglar and the Moon

Important Teaching

The Garden Keeper


The Inn

Without Fear


No Water, No Moon

Calling Card

Mokusen’s Hand

Publishing the Sutras

Heaven and Hell -------------------------------- 205

Gudo & the Emperor

Transmission of the Book

One Note Zen

Most Valuable Thing



Time to Die

About Teaching

Silent Temple

Two Principles to Live By

Then Zen


End of Questions

One Flicks Dirt* with His Toe

The Parable of the Zither

Su Shi and the Buddhist Monk

Happy Chinaman

Wo and Jah

Buy Your Own Fish

Mother’s Advice

Heart Burns Like Fire

Dead Man’s Answer

Grass and Trees

Black-Nose Buddha

Ryonen’s Clear Realization

Sour Miso ------------------------------------------208

No Work, No Food

The True Path


The Blockhead Lord

Zengetsu’s Rules

A Drop of Water

Three Kinds of Disciples

Zen Dialogue

Buddha’s Zen

Not the Wind, Not the Flag

Everyday Life is the Path

Joshu Washes the Bowl

Seizei Alone and Poor

Arresting the Stone Buddha

The Hungry Student

Three Zen Jokes

How To Rule a Country

The Two Different Monks

24 Hours To Die



Next Book of Nasrudin the Sufi - 214

The Cow and the Judge

The Burglary

The Fortuitous Burglar

The Donkey and the Official

Free Bread

The Soup

Working Spirit

Treasure Hunt


Blurred Vision

Bridge Talk

Nasrudin the Advisor

Nasrudin and the Frog

Watering the Plants

Giving Directions

Rabi`a's gifts to Hasan of Basra

Deductive Reasoning

Tit for Tat

More Useful

Promises Kept

When You Face Things Alone

Obligation ----------------------------------------------217


Why We Are Here

The Unshaven Man

Nasruddin and his Donkey

Nasruddin and the Violin

The False Prophet

The Poor Story Teller

Nasruddin and the Bedouins

Nasruddin at the Fashion Show

Nasruddin and the Tourist


To the Editor

Father and Son

The Second Time Around

The Gates

The Will of Allah

Nasruddin Meets Death

Home Repairs

100 Silver Coins

The Two Beggars

Walnuts and Pumpkins

The Turban

The Crow and the Meat


The Other Place -------------------------------------------220

Paying the Piper

Trousers and Robe

Two Cooked Fish

End of the World


Lesson of the Sandals

Two Pots

The Perfect Wife

The Cloak and the Feast

Mullah Nasruddin and His Beautiful Daughter

The King and His Dreams

Cursing Rulers

The Chess Game and the Shoes

A Wise Mullah

A Mother’s Three Gifts

Two Great Gifts

A Suggestion Against Headache

Teaching a Donkey to Read

The King and the Woodcutter

Of the Jungle

Religious Jokes - 226

House of Ill Repute

Catholic Conversion

Religious Accident

Newly Discovered First Page of the Bible

Like Moses, Shakespeare and G*d

The Atheist and the Monster

Two Beggars



Three Reform Rabbis


Outer Space Priests

Where is God?

The Collar

The Power of Scripture

Lawns and God


Going to Heaven


The Skinny Dip

Is Hell Endothermic or Exothermic?

Sunday School

Why Sex Is Better Than Church

Water Games

Divine Judgement

A Six Year-Old Girl

Real Motives

The Ants Go Marchin' ----------------------- 232


The Solution

Horses and Rabbis

The Doctrine of the Feline Sedentation

Priest and Rabbi Meet on a Plane

Jewish and Chinese Calendars

Church on Fire...

Bread for Jewish New Year...

Irish Postage Stamps

10 Commandments

Dead Sea Gull


Traditional Values

Jesus Hears about Christology

The Irishman at the Pub

Synagogue Dog

God Scandal


Good Question

Theology vs. Astronomy

He Could Have Been a Doctor or a Lawyer

Sports Car

Actual Personals from Israeli Newspapers
Wisdom of the Internet - 237

The Talking Clock

The Car Dealership

A Happy Cat

The Sacred Rac

Sleeping Through the Storm


The Lumber Jack

The Fence

The Four Philanthropists

The Fisherman

The Pit

A Tale of Tradition

A Tale For All Seasons

The Window

Wanting God

Plant Your Garden Today

A Persian Proverb

The Desiderata

On Responsibility

Reflections Of The Sky Nation

Walking on Water

Wise Blind Elephants

The Other Side

Falling Hazlenuts of Wisdom - 242

Cats in the Corner

Zen Duck

Sigil Thinking


Relicious Society

Sufic/Druidic Connections

Reflections on a Ritual

Smokey The Bear Sutra

The Druids and the Stars

The Accident

The Donkey

Chickens & the Coop

Where Did All the Celts Go?

Picking a Path

The Two Pots

Chop Wood, Carry Water

The Ten Laws of Murphy

Gold and Silver Harps

The Mona Lisa

The Oak and the Maple -------------------------- 247

Understanding is Nothing.

Approaching Death

Way of Salami

Way of Service

Way of Cheese


To My Teacher

Some Quotes on Life

Soldier and the Professor

No Vacation

Where There's a Will...

Other is Better

Happy Alliance

Real Reason

The Cage

Return to Me

How to Love Nature ------------------------------ 250




Rules of Paganism

Order of Chocolate Contemplatives

Some Ideas on What Enlightenment/Salvation

A Few Thoughts on Harmonious Living

Football as a Fertility Rite

The Church of Apathy

Why did Isaac’s Chicken Cross the Road?

A Pagan Pledge of Allegiance

The Whole World Stinks

The Baker and the Farmer

The Mountain & The Baby

Wild Fandango


A Woman’s Place

You Don’t Know

New Shoes

A Visit of Kings

A Big Quiet House

Three Fish

Who is King of the Jungle

An Invocation Poem

The Book of Self-Motivation - 257

Ten Rules for the Good Life

Life Is...

Each day I learn more

15 Ways to Enhance Your Day

Things We Can Learn from a Dog..

Things To Remember

I've Learned...

On Relationships

Hang In There

The School of Life

Just For Today

Thoughts To Live By

Recipe For A Happy Life

A Life In Your Hands

Xvxry Pxrson Is Important

Be Good To You

The Lion and The cougar

Watch Your Thoughts

Letting Go

How To Survive the Business of Living

How To Love Yourself -----------------------------------262

My Declaration of Self Esteem

Our Deepest Fear

How to Be Unhappy

Laws of Success

Claim Your Freedom


God’s Days

On Letting Go

Fair Fighting

A Start

A Practical Guide of Life

Life’s Little Instructions

The Principles of Attitudinal Healing

Who’s Counting?

Take Time

Promise Yourself

Just for Today

The Word is a Puzzle

A Special Teacher


A Lesson from a Mad hatter

Weakness or Strength?

What is Maturity ----------------------------------- 267


Let Go

How High Can You Jump?

Keeper of the Spring

If I Had My Life to Live Over

Wranglers and Stranglers

Quick Decisions

Winner versus Loser

Things to Remember

On Youth

Grind or Shine

If You Think

Total Self Confidence

Notes on the Tao Te Ching

A Creed To Live By

Peak Performer

The Paradoxical Commandments

The Book of Booze - 272

The Artesian Mysteries

The Gospel of Bracicea

A Prayer to Bracicea

The Whiskey Lesson

The Tavern

Top 10 Reasons Why Beer is Better Than Jesus

We Have Drunk Whang

The Wild Rover

The Hard Drinker

Whiskey, You’re the Devil

The Rambler

John Barleycorn

Ballad of St. Bunstable

Parish of Dunkeld
The Book of Al-Anon - 276

Bake the Cake

Three Frogs Riddle

Ups and Downs of Life

It's All Relative

Anyone Up There?
The Book of Ultimate Answers - 277

The Book of the African Jedi Knight -281

The Book of the Bantu

The Book of the Jedi

The Nightingale - 291

Book of Interfaith Peace Prayers - 294

The Hindu Prayer for Peace

Baha’i Prayer for Peace

Buddhist Prayer for Peace

Jewish Prayer for Peace

Jainist Prayer for Peace

Muslim Prayer for Peace

Native African Prayer for Peace

Native American Prayer for Peace

Shinto Prayer for Peace

Zoroastrian Prayer for Peace

Sikh Prayer for Peace

Christian Prayer for Peace

Prayer of St. Francis

Let There be Peace on Earth

I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing
Book of Freedom and Liberty - 296

The Challenge of Religious Freedom

Prayer: It Ain't That Complicated

Religious and Biblical Arguments for Church-State Separation

The Words that Branded Him – A Muslim Perspective
Quotes on Religious Liberty - 303

"Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia," 1779

Words of Thomas Jefferson

Words of James Madison

Words of John Adams

Words of Other Revolutionaries
The Supreme Court - 308

Words of the Supreme Court

An Overall View Of Religious Liberty: As Defined By U.S. Supreme Court Cases
Monky Business

Found at



After nine years in China, Bodhdharma wished to go home in India and gathered his disciples around him to test their apperception.

Dofuku said: “In my opinion, truth is beyond affirmation or negation, for this is the way it moves.”

Bodhidharma replied: “You have my skin.”

The nun Soji said: “In my view, it is like Ananda’s sight of the Buddha-land – seen once and for ever.”

Bodhidharma answered: “You have my flesh.”

Doiku said: “The four elements of light, airness, fluidity, and solidity are empty [i.e., inclusive] and the five skandhas are no-things. In my opinion, no-thing [i.e. spirit] is reality.”

Bodhiharma commented: “You have my bones.”

Finally, Eka bowed before the master and remained silent.

Bodhidharma said: “You have my marrow.”

Time To Learn

A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master:

"If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to find Zen?"

The Master thought about this, and then replied, "Ten years."

The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast -- How long then?"

Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years."

"But, if I really, really work at it. How long then?" asked the student.

"Thirty years," replied the Master.

"But, I do not understand," said the disappointed student. "At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?"

Replied the Master, "When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path."

Bell Teacher

A new student approached the Zen master and asked how he should prepare himself for his training. "Think of me a bell," the master explained. "Give me a soft tap, and you will get a tiny ping. Strike hard, and you'll receive a loud, resounding peal."

Two Rabbits

A martial arts student approached his teacher with a question. "I'd like to improve my knowledge of the martial arts. In addition to learning from you, I'd like to study with another teacher in order to learn another style. What do you think of this idea?"

"The hunter who chases two rabbits," answered the master, "catches neither one."


The Prime Minister of the Tang Dynasty was a national hero for his success as both a statesman and military leader. But despite his fame, power, and wealth, he considered himself a humble and devout Buddhist. Often he visited his favorite Zen master to study under him, and they seemed to get along very well. The fact that he was prime minister apparently had no effect on their relationship, which seemed to be simply one of a revered master and respectful student.

One day, during his usual visit, the Prime Minister asked the master, "Your Reverence, what is egotism according to Buddhism?" The master's face turned red, and in a very condescending and insulting tone of voice, he shot back, "What kind of stupid question is that!?"

This unexpected response so shocked the Prime Minister that he became sullen and angry. The Zen master then smiled and said, "THIS, Your Excellency, is egotism."

Duke and the Wheelwright:

Duke Huan was reading a book in the hall. Wheelwright Pian, who had been chiseling a wheel in the courtyard below, set down his tools and climbed the stairs to ask Duke Huan:

"May I ask what words are in the book Your Grace is reading?"

"The classic of a famous sage." the Duke responded.

"Is he still alive?"

"Oh no, he is long dead"

"Then you've been reading the dregs left over by a dead man, isn't it?"

Duke Huan said, " How dare a wheelwright to have opinions about the book I read! If you can explain yourself, I'll let it pass. Otherwise, it's death!"

Wheelwright Pian said, "In my case I see things in terms of my own work. I chisel at a wheel. If I go too slowly, the chisel slides and does not stay put. If I hurry, it jams and doesn't move properly. When it is just right, I can feel it in my hand and respond to it from my heart. I can explain this to my son, but I cannot pass on the skills to him. That is why at seventy years old, I am still making wheels. The sage who couldn't pass down his wisdom is already dead; and that's why I say the book you're reading is merely the dregs of a dead man."

-Zhuangzi, Chap. 5-13

Shield and Spear

An armorer of Chu boldly claims to make the best spears and shields.

"My shields are so strong; they cannot be penetrated by any weapon," he said. He then added, “My spears are so sharp; they can pierce any shield."

A man asks, "If your spear is thrown at your shield, what then?"

The armorer had no reply.

By logic, both an impenetrable shield and an all-piercing spear cannot exist at the same time.

-State of Chu (841-233 b.c.), Chou Dynasty

The Flute Player

Whenever King Xuan of Qi had musicians playing the yu, a wind instrument with reed, he will have three hundred of them playing together. Knowing this, a student from Nanguo applied for a job. The king accepted and paid him the same salary as the others.

After the death of King Xuan, King Min became the ruler of Qi. He liked to have the musicians playing solo. The student from Nanguo fled.

-Han Fei Zi

What is the moral of this story? One way to weed out the incompetent is to measure each individually.

Blind Man’s Lantern

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.

The Umbrella

After ten years of apprenticeship, Tenno achieved the rank of Zen teacher. One rainy day, he went to visit the famous master Nan-in. When he walked in, the master greeted him with a question, "Did you leave your wooden clogs and umbrella on the porch?"

"Yes," Tenno replied.

"Tell me," the master continued, "did you place your umbrella to the left of your shoes, or to the right?"

Tenno did not know the answer, and realized that he had not yet attained full awareness. So he became Nan-in's apprentice and studied under him for ten more years.

And Then What is There?

The emperor, who was a devout Buddhist, invited a great Zen master to the Palace in order to ask him questions about Buddhism. "What is the highest truth of the holy Buddhist doctrine?" the emperor inquired.

"Vast emptiness... and not a trace of holiness," the master replied.

"If there is no holiness," the emperor said, "then who or what are you?"

"I do not know," the master replied.

Is That So?

A beautiful girl in the village was pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who was the father. At first resistant to confess, the anxious and embarrassed girl finally pointed to Hakuin, the Zen master whom everyone previously revered for living such a pure life. When the outraged parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter's accusation, he simply replied "Is that so?"

When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who now was viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. "Is that so?" Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.

For many months he took very good care of the child until the daughter could no longer withstand the lie she had told. She confessed that the real father was a young man in the village whom she had tried to protect. The parents immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With profuse apologies they explained what had happened.

"Is that so?" Hakuin said as he handed them the child.

Two Words

There once was a monastery that was very strict. Following a vow of silence, no one was allowed to speak at all. But there was one exception to this rule. Every ten years, the monks were permitted to speak just two words. After spending his first ten years at the monastery, one monk went to the head monk. "It has been ten years," said the head monk. "What are the two words you would like to speak?"

"Bed... hard..." said the monk.

"I see," replied the head monk.

Ten years later, the monk returned to the head monk's office. "It has been ten more years," said the head monk. "What are the two words you would like to speak?"

"Food... stinks..." said the monk.

"I see," replied the head monk.

Yet another ten years passed and the monk once again met with the head monk who asked, "What are your two words now, after these ten years?"

"I... quit!" said the monk.

"Well, I can see why," replied the head monk. "All you ever do is complain."

The Art of Burglary

The son of a master thief asked his father to teach him the secrets of the trade. The old thief agreed and that night took his son to burglarize a large house. While the family was asleep, he silently led his young apprentice into a room that contained a clothes closet. The father told his son to go into the closet to pick out some clothes. When he did, his father quickly shut the door and locked him in. Then he went back outside, knocked loudly on the front door, thereby waking the family, and quickly slipped away before anyone saw him. Hours later, his son returned home, bedraggled and exhausted.

"Father," he cried angrily, "Why did you lock me in that closet? If I hadn't been made desperate by my fear of getting caught, I never would have escaped. It took all my ingenuity to get out!"

The old thief smiled. "Son, you have had your first lesson in the art of burglary."

The Burglar and the Moon

A Zen Master lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening, while he was away, a thief sneaked into the hut only to find there was nothing in it to steal. The Zen Master returned and found 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, but he took the clothes and ran away. The Master sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, " I wish I could give him this beautiful moon."

Important Teaching

A renowned Zen master said that his greatest teaching was this: Buddha is your own mind. So impressed by how profound this idea was, one monk decided to leave the monastery and retreat to the wilderness to meditate on this insight. There he spent 20 years as a hermit probing the great teaching.

One day he met another monk who was traveling through the forest. Quickly the hermit monk learned that the traveler also had studied under the same Zen master. "Please, tell me what you know of the master's greatest teaching."

The traveler's eyes lit up, "Ah, the master has been very clear about this. He says that his greatest teaching is this: Buddha is NOT your own mind."

The Garden Keeper

A priest was in charge of the garden within a famous Zen temple. He had been given the job because he loved the flowers, shrubs, and trees. Next to the temple there was another, smaller temple where there lived a very old Zen master. One day, when the priest was expecting some special guests, he took extra care in tending to the garden. He pulled the weeds, trimmed the shrubs, combed the moss, and spent a long time meticulously raking up and carefully arranging all the dry autumn leaves. As he worked, the old master watched him with interest from across the wall that separated the temples.

When he had finished, the priest stood back to admire his work. "Isn't it beautiful," he called out to the old master. "Yes," replied the old man, "but there is something missing. Help me over this wall and I'll put it right for you."

After hesitating, the priest lifted the old fellow over and set him down. Slowly, the master walked to the tree near the center of the garden, grabbed it by the trunk, and shook it. Leaves showered down all over the garden.

"There," said the old man, "you can put me back now."


A rich man asked a Zen master to write something down that could encourage the prosperity of his family for years to come. It would be something that the family could cherish for generations. On a large piece of paper, the master wrote, "Father dies, son dies, grandson dies."

The rich man became angry when he saw the master's work. "I asked you to write something down that could bring happiness and prosperity to my family. Why do you give me something depressing like this?"

"If your son should die before you," the master answered, "this would bring unbearable grief to your family. If your grandson should die before your son, this also would bring great sorrow. If your family, generation after generation, disappears in the order I have described, it will be the natural course of life. This is true happiness and prosperity."

The Inn

A famous spiritual teacher came to the front door of the King's palace. None of the guards tried to stop him as he entered and made his way to where the King himself was sitting on his throne.

"What do you want?" asked the King, immediately recognizing the visitor.

"I would like a place to sleep in this inn," replied the teacher.

"But this is not an inn," said the King, "It is my palace."

"May I ask who owned this palace before you?"

"My father. He is dead."

"And who owned it before him?"

"My grandfather. He too is dead."

"And this place where people live for a short time and then move on - did I hear you say that it is NOT an inn?"

Without Fear

During the civil wars in feudal Japan, an invading army would quickly sweep into a town and take control. In one particular village, everyone fled just before the army arrived - everyone except the Zen master. Curious about this old fellow, the general went to the temple to see for himself what kind of man this master was. When he wasn't treated with the deference and submissiveness to which he was accustomed, the general burst into anger. "You fool," he shouted as he reached for his sword, "don't you realize you are standing before a man who could run you through without blinking an eye!"

But despite the threat, the master seemed unmoved. "And do you realize," the master replied calmly, "that you are standing before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?"


The master Bankei's talks were attended not only by Zen students but also by persons of all ranks and sects. He never quoted sutras nor indulged in scholastic dissertations. Instead, his words were spoken directly from his heart to the hearts of his listeners.

His large audience angered a priest of the Nichiren sect because the adherents had left to hear about Zen. The self-centered Nichiren priest came to the temple, determined to have a debate with Bankei.

"Hey, Zen teacher!" he called out. "Wait a minute. Whoever respects you will obey what you say, but a man like myself does not respect you. Can you make me obey you?"

"Come up beside me and I will show you," said Bankei.

Proudly the priest pushed his way through the crowd to the teacher.

Bankei smiled. "Come over to my left side."

The priest obeyed.

"No," said Bankei, "we may talk better if you are on the right side. Step over here."

The priest proudly stepped over to the right.

"You see," observed Bankei, "you are obeying me and I think you are a very gentle person. Now sit down and listen."

No Water, No Moon

When the nun Chiyono studied Zen under Bukko of Engaku she was unable to attain the fruits of meditation for a long time.

At last one moonlit night she was carrying water in an old pail bound with bamboo. The bamboo broke and the bottom fell out of the pail, and at that moment Chiyono was set free!

In commemoration, she wrote a poem:

In this way and that I tried to save the old pail

Since the bamboo strip was weakening and about to break

Until at last the bottom fell out.

No more water in the pail!

No more moon in the water!

Calling Card

Keichu, the great Zen teacher of the Meiji era, was the head of Tofuku, a cathedral in Kyoto. One day the governor of Kyoto called upon him for the first time.

His attendant presented the card of the governor, which read: Kitagaki, Governor of Kyoto.

"I have no business with such a fellow," said Keichu to his attendant. "Tell him to get out of here.” The attendant carried the card back with apologies.

"That was my error," said the governor, and with a pencil he scratched out the words Governor of Kyoto. "Ask your teacher again."

"Oh, is that Kitagaki?" exclaimed the teacher when he saw the card. "I want to see that fellow."

Mokusen’s Hand

Mokusen Hiki was living in a temple in the province of Tamba. One of his adherents complained of the stinginess of his wife.

Mokusen visited the adherent's wife and showed her his clenched fist before her face.

"What do you mean by that?" asked the surprised woman.

"Suppose my fist were always like that. What would you call it?" he asked.

"Deformed," replied the woman.

The he opened his hand flat in her face and asked: "Suppose it were always like that. What then?"

"Another kind of deformity," said the wife.

“If you understand that much” finished Mokusen, "you are a good wife." Then he left. After his visit, this wife helped her husband to distribute as well as to save.

Publishing the Sutras

Tetsugen, a devotee of Zen in Japan, decided to publish the sutras, which at that time were available only in Chinese. The books were to be printed with wood blocks in an edition of seven thousand copies, a tremendous undertaking.

Tetsugen began by traveling and collecting donations for this purpose. A few sympathizers would give him a hundred pieces of gold, but most of the time he received only small coins. He thanked each donor with equal gratitude. After ten years Tetsugen had enough money to begin his task.

It happened that at that time the Uji River overflowed. Famine followed. Tetsugen took the funds he had collected for the books and spent them to save others from starvation. Then he began again his work of collecting.

Several years afterwards an epidemic spread over the country. Tetsugen again gave away what he had collected, to help his people.

For a third time he started his work, and after twenty years his wish was fulfilled. The printing blocks, which produced the first edition of sutras, can be seen today in the Obaku monastery in Kyoto.

The Japanese tell their children that Tetsugen made three sets of sutras, and that the first two invisible sets surpass even the last.

Heaven and Hell

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

Gudo & the Emperor

The emperor Goyozei was studying Zen under Gudo. He inquired: "In Zen this very mind is Buddha. Is this correct?"

Gudo answered: "If I say yes, you will think that you understand without understanding. If I say no, I would be contradicting a fact which you may understand quite well."

On another day the emperor asked Gudo: "Where does the enlightened man go when he dies?"

Gudo answered: "I know not."

"Why don't you know?" asked the emperor.

"Because I have not died yet," replied Gudo.

The emperor hesitated to inquire further about these things his mind could not grasp. So Gudo beat the floor with his hand as if to awaken him, and the emperor was enlightened!

The emperor respected Zen and old Gudo more than ever after his enlightenment, and he even permitted Gudo to wear his hat in the palace in winter. When Gudo was over eighty he used to fall asleep in the midst of his lecture, and the emperor would quietly retire to another room so his beloved teacher might enjoy the rest his aging body required.

Transmission of the Book

In modern times a great deal of nonsense is talked about masters and disciples, and about the inheritance of a master's teaching by favorite pupils, entitling them to pass the truth on to their adherents. Of course Zen should be imparted in this way, from heart to heart, and in the past it was really accomplished. Silence and humility reigned rather than profession and assertion. The one who received such a teaching kept the matter hidden even after twenty years. Not until another discovered through his own need, that a real master was at hand was it learned that the teaching had been imparted, and even then the occasion arose quite naturally and the teaching made its way in its own right. Under no circumstance did the teacher even claim, "I am the successor of So-and-so." Such a claim would prove quite the contrary.

The Zen master Mu-nan had only one successor. His name was Shoju. After Shoju had completed his study of Zen, Mu-nan called him into his room. "I am getting old," he said, "and as far as I know, Shoju, you are the only one who will carry on this teaching. Here is a book. It has been passed down from master to master for seven generations. I have also added many points according to my understanding. The book is very valuable, and I am giving it to you to represent your successorship."

"If the book is such an important thing, you had better keep it," Shoju replied. "I received your Zen without writing and am satisfied with it as it is."

"I know that," said Mu-nan. "Even so, this work has been carried from master to master for seven generations, so you may keep it as a symbol of having received the teaching. Here."

They happened to be talking before a brazier. The instant Shoju felt the book in his hands he thrust it into the flaming coals. He had no lust for possessions.

Mu-nan, who never had been angry before, yelled: "What are you doing!"

Shoju shouted back: "What are you saying!"

One Note Zen

After Kakua visited the emperor he disappeared and no one knew what became of him. He was the first Japanese to study Zen in China, but since he showed nothing of it, save one note, he is not remembered for having brought Zen into his country.

Kakua visited China and accepted the true teaching. He did not travel while he was there. Meditating constantly, he lived on a remote part of a mountain. Whenever people found him and asked him to preach he would say a few words and then move to another part of the mountain where he could be found less easily.

The emperor heard about Kakua when he returned to Japan and asked him to preach Zen for his edification and that of his subjects. Kakua stood before the emperor in silence. He the produced a flute from the folds of his robe, and blew one short note. Bowing politely, he disappeared.

Most Valuable Thing

A student asked Sozan, a Chinese Zen master, "What is the most valuable thing in the world?"

The master replied: "The head of a dead cat."

"Why is the head of a dead cat the most valuable thing in the world?" inquired the student.

Sozan replied: "Because no one can name its price."


Ryokan devoted his life to the study of Zen. One day he heard that his nephew, despite the admonitions of relatives, was spending his money on a courtesan. Inasmuch as the nephew had taken Ryokan's place in managing the family estate and the property was in danger of being dissipated, the relatives asked Ryoken to do something about it.

Ryokan had to travel a long way to visit his nephew, whom he had not seen for many years. The nephew seemed pleased to meet his uncle again and invited him to remain overnight.

All night Ryokan sat in meditation. As he was departing in the morning he said to the young man: "I must be getting old, my hand shakes so. Will you help me tie the string of my straw sandal?"

The nephew helped him willingly. "Thank you," finished Ryokan, "you see, a man becomes older and feebler day by day. Take good care of yourself." Then Ryokan left, never mentioning a word about the courtesan or the complaints of the relatives. But, from that morning on, the dissipations of the nephew ended.


A Zen student came to Bankei and complained: "Master, I have an ungovernable temper. How can I cure it?"

"You have something very strange," replied Bankei. "Let me see what you have."

"Just now I cannot show it to you," replied the other.

"When can you show it to me?" asked Bankei.

"It arises unexpectedly," replied the student.

"Then," concluded Bankei, "it must not be your own true nature. If it were, you could show it to me at any time. When you were born you did not have it, and your parents did not give it to you. Think that over."

Time to Die

Ikkyu, the Zen master, was very clever even as a boy. His teacher had a precious teacup, a rare antique. Ikkyu happened to break this cup and was greatly perplexed. Hearing the footsteps of his teacher, he held the pieces of the cup behind him. When the master appeared, Ikkyu asked: "Why do people have to die?"

"This is natural," explained the older man. "Everything has to die and has just so long to live."

Ikkyu, producing the shattered cup, added: "It was time for your cup to die."

Silent Temple

Shoichi was a one-eyed teacher of Zen, sparkling with enlightenment. He taught his disciples in Tofuku temple.

Day and night the whole temple stood in silence. There was no sound at all.

The teacher abolished even the reciting of sutras. His pupils had nothing to do but meditate.

When the master passed away, an old neighbor heard the ringing of bells and the recitation of sutras. Then she knew Shoichi had gone.

Two Principles to Live By

A traveler through the mountains came upon an elderly gentleman who was busy planting a tiny almond tree. Knowing that almond trees take many years to mature, he commented to the man "It seems odd that a man of your advanced age would plant such a slow-growing tree!”

The man replied, "I like to live my life based on two principles. One is that I will live forever. The other is that this is my last day."

(paraphrased from either Lao Tsu or Chuang-T'su)

Then Zen

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