Chicken-Flavored Soup for the Druid’s Soul

One of Ho Chi Zen's students asked him, "What was the occasion of your enlightenment?"


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One of Ho Chi Zen's students asked him, "What was the occasion of your enlightenment?"

Ho replied: "I forget."


In Chuang Tzu, he is visited by another character, Great Knowledge, whose inquiries he answers by laughing and slapping his knee and shouting, "I don't know! I don't know!"

End of Questions

Upon meeting a Zen master at a social event, a psychiatrist decided to ask him a question that had been on his mind.

"Exactly how do you help people?" he inquired.

"I get them to where they can't ask any more questions," the Master answered.

One Flicks Dirt with His Toe

[The Buddha is speaking]: "When the mind is pure, the Buddha land will be pure."

At that time, Shariputra, moved by the Buddha's supernatural powers, thought to himself: "If the mind of the bodhisattva is pure, then his Buddha land will be pure. Now when our World-Honored-One first determined to become a bodhisattva, surely his intentions were pure. Why then is this Buddha land so filled with impurities?"

The Buddha, knowing his thoughts, said to him, "What do you think? Are the sun and the moon impure? Is that why the blind man fails to see them?

Shariputra replied, "No, World Honored One. That is the fault of the blind man. The sun and moon are not to blame."

Buddha: "Shariputra, it is the failings of living beings that prevent them from seeing the marvelous purity of the land of the Buddha, the Thus Come One. The Thus Come One is not to blame. Shariputra, this land of mine is pure, but you fail to see it."

Shariputra said, "When I look at this land, I see it full of knolls and hollows, thorny underbrush, sand and gravel, dirt, rocks, many mountains, filth and defilement."

The Buddha then pressed his toe against the earth, and immediately the thousand-million fold world was adorned with hundreds and thousands of rare jewels. All the members of the great assembly sighed in wonder at what they had never seen before, and all saw that they were seated on jeweled lotuses."

The Buddha said to Shariputra, "Now do you see the marvelous purity of this Buddha land?"

Shariputra replied, "Indeed, I do. Now all the marvelous purity of the Buddha land is before me."

The Buddha said to Shariputra, "If a person's mind is pure, then he will see the wonderful blessings that adorn this land."

[The above is from "The Vimalakirti Sutra" translated by Burton Watson, pp. 29-31. I have edited some sentences for brevity.] By the way, Watson's translation of the Vimalakirti is a triumph! The introduction alone is worth the price of the book.

Nichiren Daishonin wrote: 

"Fire can be produced by a stone taken from the bottom of a river, and a candle can light up a place that has been dark for billions of years.  If even the most ordinary things of this world are such wonders, then how much more wondrous is the power of the Mystic Law?" 

(From "The One Essential Phrase")


"Please understand that I am merely joining my one drop to the rivers and the oceans or adding my candle to the sun and the moon, hoping in this way to increase even slightly the volume of the water or the brilliance of the light." 

(From "Recitation of the Hoben and Juryo Chapters")

The Parable of the Zither

"Sona, you cannot produce a good sound on the zither if you tighten the strings too much, can you?"

"That is correct, man of great virtue."

"And at the other extreme, you cannot produce a good sound either if you loosen the strings too much, can you?"

"What you said is precisely right, man of great virtue."

"Then what would you do?"

"Man of great virtue, it is vital to tune the strings properly and neither tighten nor loosen them too much."

"Sona, you should realize that the practice of the Way, which I preach, is exactly the same. If you are too assiduous in your practice, you will strain your mind and become too tense. However if you relax your mind too much, then you will be overwhelmed by laziness. You must strike a balance in your practice of the Way as well."

(From Treasures of the Heart by Daisaku Ikeda) 

Su Shi and the Buddhist Monk

The famous Chinese poet Su Shi* (1037-1101 A.D.) was visiting his friend, who was a Buddhist monk. Su Shi asks the monk what Su Shi is like in the monk's eyes.

The monk replies, "In my eyes, you are a Buddha."

Su Shi is very happy with this response.

The monk then asks Su Shi the same question, and Su Shi answers, "In my eyes, you are dung!"

The monk smiles, and Su Shi is delighted, because he thinks he is so much better than the monk.

Then some days later, Su Shi tells the story to a friend, and the friend tells him the truth, "The monk sees you as a Buddha, because he sees everything as Buddha, because he has a Buddha's heart and eyes. You see the monk as dung, because you see everything as dung, because you have a dung's heart and eyes!"

[This story is from Nomis Fung]

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 around 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: “Give me one penny.” And if anyone asked him to return to a temple to teach others, again he would reply: “Give me one penny.”

Once as he was about his play-work, another Zen master happened along and inquired: “What is the significance of Zen?”

Hotei immediately plopped his sack down 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.

Wo and Jah

A troubled man named Wo could not figure out how to live. So he began meditating to find some answers. After many months he felt no progress, so he asked the temple priest for help.

The priest said, "Go see old Jah."

So he hiked to old Jah's village and came upon the happy-looking old man coming from the forest under a heavy load of firewood.

"Excuse me, honored Jah," he said. "But can you teach me the secret of life?"

Jah raised his eyebrows and gazed at Wo. Then with some effort he twisted out from beneath his great bundle of firewood and let it crash to the ground.

"There, that is enlightenment," he said, straightening up with relief and smiling.

The troubled man looked on in shock at the prickly firewood scattered over the ground. "Is that all there is to it?" he said.

"Oh, no," said Jah. Then he bent down, collected all the scattered sticks, hoisted them carefully up on his back and made ready to walk on. "This is enlightenment, too. Come. Let's go together for tea."

So Wo walked along with Jah. "What is old Jah showing me?" he asked.

Jah replied, "First, yes, you are suffering a heavy burden. Many do. But, as the Buddha taught and many have realized, much of your burden and much of your joylessness is your craving for what you can't have and your clinging to what you can't keep. 

"See the nature of your burden and of the chafing you experience as you try to cling to it useless, unnecessary, damaging; and you can let it go. In doing so, you find relief, and you are freer to see the blessings of life and to choose wisely to receive them."

"Thank you, old Jah," said Wo. "And why did you call picking up the burden of firewood again enlightenment as well?" 

"One understanding is that some burden in life is unavoidable — and even beneficial, like firewood. With occasional rest, it can be managed, and with freedom from undue anxiety about it, it will not cause chafe.

"Once the undue burden is dropped, we straighten up and see and feel the wonder and power of being. Seeing others suffering without that freedom and blissful experience, we willingly and knowingly pick up their burdens out of compassion joining and aiding others in their various struggles for liberation, enlightenment and fulfillment."

"Thank you, Old Jah," said the exhilarated Wo. "You have enlightened me."

"Ah-so," said Jah. "Your understanding is enlightened. Now to make it part of your living and your spirit, you must go follow the eight practices and meditate. Then you will learn to detach yourself from your useless burden of cravings and to attach yourself to the profound source of being, out of which life, creativity, joy and compassion form and flow." 

And so Wo went and did. And understanding the truths gave him comfort. And practicing the good behaviors kept him from harming himself or others anymore. And concentrating on the deep blissful potential of life gave him a continuing sense of companionship and joyful awe and of well-being in his spirit, no matter what else of pain he had to deal with.

Buy Your Own Fish

A government minister very much enjoyed eating fish. Every morning, many people lined up at his front doors, eagerly presenting gifts of expensive and exotic fish to him.

Observing this, with great uneasiness, he calmly thanked them for their kindness but flatly refused to receive any one of those fish. This lack of social courtesy deeply surprised and annoyed his young brother, who lived with him. One night, after dinner he curiously asked his elder brother for the reason.

"Its very simple," the minister revealed. "To avoid potential trouble, a wise man should never let his inclinations or hobbies be known by the public. I fail miserably on that point because my taste for fish is common knowledge. Knowing my likes, those gift-givers will try to satisfy them. If I accept their gifts, I owe them favors. When making a decision, I would inevitably or subconsciously have their concerns on my mind. I might bend a law to return a favor. If this continues, I risk getting caught and losing my position and reputation. Who then will bother to give gifts to a disgraced and powerless prisoner? Therefore, I must vigorously decline their generosity. Without owing them any gratuity, I am my own master. Making appropriate and unbiased decision, I can keep my post much longer and continue to buy my own fish."

His brother promptly apologized for his short sightedness.

Mother’s Advice

Jiun, a Shingon master, was a well-known Sanskrit scholar of the Tokugawa era. When he was young, he used to deliver lectures to his brother students.

His mother heard about this and wrote him a letter:

“Son, I do not think you became a devotee of the Buddha because you desired to turn into a walking dictionary for others. There is no end to information and commentation, glory and honor. I wish you would stop this lecture business. Shut yourself up in a little temple in a remote part of the mountain. Devote your time to meditation and in this way attain true realization.”

Heart Burns Like Fire

Soyen Shaku, the first Zen teacher to come to America, said: “My heart burns like fire but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes.” He made the following rules, which he practiced every day of his life.

In the morning before dressing, light incense and meditate.

Retire at a regular hour.

Partake of food at regular intervals. Eat with moderation and never to the point of satisfaction.

Receive a guest with the same attitude you have when alone. When alone, maintain the same attitude you have in receiving guests.

Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practice it.

When an opportunity comes do not let it pass by, yet always think twice before acting.

Do not regret the past. Look to the future.

Have the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child.

Upon retiring, sleep as if you have entered your last sleep.

Upon awakening, leave you bed behind you instantly as if you had cast away a pair of old shoes.

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, thing, 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!”

Grass and Trees

During the Kamakura period, Shinkan studied Tendai six years and then studied Zen seven years; then he went to China and contemplated Zen for thirteen years more.

When he returned to Japan many desired to interview him and asked obscure question. But when Shinkan received visitors, which was infrequently, he seldom answered their questions.

One day, a fifty-year old student of enlightenment said to Shinkan: “I have studied the Tendai school of thought since I was a little boy, but one thing in it I cannot understand. Tendai claims that even the grass and trees will become enlightened. To me this seems very strange.”

“Of what use is it to discuss how grass and trees become enlightened,” asked Shinkan? “The question is how you yourself can become so. Did you ever consider that?”

“I never thought of it in that way,” marveled the old man.

“Then go home and think it over,” finished Shinkan.

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 designed a funnel through which the smoke would ascend only to her statue. This blackened the nose of the golden Buddha, making it especially ugly.

Ryonen’s Clear Realization

The Buddhist nun, known as Ryonen, was born in 1797. She was the granddaughter of the famous Japanese warrior Shingen. Her poetical genius and alluring beauty were such that at seventeen she was serving the empress as one of the ladies of the court. Even at such a youthful age fame awaited her.

The beloved empress died suddenly and Ryonen’s hopeful dreams vanished. She became acutely aware of the impermanency of life in this world. It was then that she desired to study Zen.

Her relatives disagreed, however, and practically forced her into marriage. With a promise that she might become a nun after she had borne three children, Ryonen assented. Before she was twenty-five she had accomplished this condition. Then her husband and relatives could no longer dissuade her from her desire. She shaved her head, took the name of Ryonen, which means to realize clearly, and started on her pilgrimage.

She came to the city of Edo and asked Tetsugyu to accept her as a disciple. At one glance the master rejected her because she was too beautiful. Ryonen then went to another master, Hakuo. Hakuo refused her for the same reason, saying that her beauty would only make trouble. Ryonen obtained a hot iron and placed it against her face. In a few moments her beauty had vanished forever. Hakuo then accepted her as a disciple.

Commemorating this occasion, Ryonen wrote a poem on the back of a little mirror:

In the service of my Empress

I burned incense to perfume my exquisite clothes,

Now as a homeless mendicant

I burn my face to enter a Zen temple.

When Ryonen was about to pass from this world, she wrote another poem:

Sixty-six times have these eyes beheld the changing scene of autumn.

I have said enough about moonlight.

Ask no more.

Only listen to the voice of pines and cedars when no wind stirs.

Sour Miso

The cook monk Dairyo, at Bankei’s monastery, decided that he would take good care of his old teacher’s health and give him only fresh miso, a paste of soy beans mixed with wheat and yeast that often ferments. Bankei, noticing that he was being served better miso than his pupils asked: “Who is the cook today?”

Dairyo was sent before him. Bankei learned that according to his age and position he should eat only fresh miso. So he said to the cook: “Then you think I shouldn’t eat at all.” With this he entered his room and locked the door.

Dairyo, sitting outside the door, asked his teacher’s pardon. Bankei would not answer. For seven days Dairyo sat outside and Bankei within.

Finally in desperation an adherent called loudly to Bankei: “You may be all right, old teacher, but this young disciple here has to eat. He cannot go without food forever!”

At that Bankei opened the door. He was smiling. He told Dairyo: “I insist on eating the same food as the least of my followers. When you become the teacher I do not want you to forget this.”

No Work, No Food

Hyakujo, the Chinese Zen master, used to labor with his pupils even at the age of eighty, trimming the gardens, cleaning the grounds, and pruning the trees.

The pupils felt sorry to see the old teacher working so hard, but they knew he would not listen to their advice to stop, so they hid away his tools.

That day the master did not eat. The next day he did not eat, nor the next. “He may be angry because we have hidden his tools,” the pupils surmised. “We had better put them back.”

The day they did, the teacher worked and ate the same as before. In the evening, he instructed them: “No work, no food.”

The True Path

Just before Ninakwa passed away the Zen master Ikkyu visited him. “Shall I lead you on?” Ikkyu asked.

Ninakawa replied: “I came here alone and I go alone. What help could you be to me?”

Ikkyu answered: “If you think you really come and go, that is your delusion. Let me show you the path on which there is no coming and no going.”

With his words, Ikkyu had revealed the path so clearly that Ninakawa smiled and passed away.


Gasan instructed his adherents one day: “Those who speak against killing and who desire to spare the lives of all conscious beings are right. It is good to protect even animals and insects. But what about those persons who kill time, what about those who are destroying wealth, and those who destroy political economy? We should not overlook them. Furthermore, what of the one who preaches without enlightenment? He is killing Buddhism.”

The Blockhead Lord

Two Zen teachers, Daigu and Gudo, were invited to visit a lord. Upon arriving, Gudo said to the lord: “You are wise by nature and have an innate ability to learn Zen.”

“Nonsense,” said Daigu. “Why do you flatter this blockhead? He may be a lord, but he doesn’t know anything of Zen.”

So, instead of building a temple for Gudo, the lord built it for Daigu and studied Zen with him.

Zengetsu’s Rules

Zengetsu, a Chinese master of the T’ang dynasty, wrote the following advice for his pupils:

Living in the world yet not forming attachments to the dust of the world is the way of a true Zen student.

When witnessing the good action of another, encourage yourself to follow his example. Hearing of the mistaken action of another, advise yourself not to emulate it.

Even though alone in a dark room, be as if you were facing a noble guest. Express your feelings, but become no more expressive than your true nature.

Poverty is your treasure. Never exchange it for an easy life.

A person may appear a fool and yet not be one. He may only be guarding his wisdom carefully.

Virtues are the fruit of self-discipline and do not drop from heaven of themselves as does rain or snow.

Modesty is the foundation of all virtues. Let your neighbors discover you before you make yourself known to them.

A noble heart never forces itself forward. Its words are as rare gems, seldom displayed and of great value.

To a sincere student, every day is a fortunate day. Time passes, but he never lags behind. Neither glory nor shame can move him.

Censure yourself, never another. Do not discuss right and wrong.

Some things, though right, were considered wrong for generations. Since the value of righteousness may be recognized after centuries, there is no need to crave an immediate appreciation.

Live with cause and leave results to the great law of the universe. Pass each day in peaceful contemplation.

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.

Three Kinds of Disciples

A Zen master named Gettan lived in the latter part of the Tokugawa era. He used to say: “There are three kinds of disciples: those who impart Zen to others, those who maintain the temples and shrines, and then there are the rice bags and the clothes-hangers.”

Gassan expressed the same idea. When he was studying under Tekisui, his teacher was very severe. Sometimes he even beat him. Other pupils would not stand this kind of teaching and quit. Gasan remained, saying: “A poor disciple utilizes a teacher’s influence. A fair disciple admires a teacher’s kindness. A good disciple grows strong under a teacher’s discipline.”

Buddha’s Zen

Buddha said: “I consider the positions of kings and rulers as that of dust motes. I observe treasure of god and gems as so many bricks and pebbles. I look upon the finest silken robes as tattered rags. I see myriad worlds of the universe as small seeds of fruit, and the greatest lake in India as a drop of oil on my foot. I perceive the teachings of the world to be the illusion of magicians. I discern the highest conception of emancipation as golden brocade in a dream, and view the holy path of the illuminated ones as flowers appearing in one’s eyes. I see mediation as a pillar of a mountain, Nirvana as a nightmare of daytime. I look upon the judgment of right and wrong as the serpentine dance of a dragon, and the rise and fall of beliefs as but traces left by the four seasons.”

Zen Dialogue

Zen teachers train their young pupils to express themselves. Two Zen temples each had a child protégé. 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 met 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 market to buy vegetables,” the other replied.

Not the Wind, Not the Flag

Two monks were arguing about a flag. One said: “The flag is moving”

The other said: “The wind is moving.”

The sixth patriarch happened to be passing by. He told them: “Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving.”

Everyday Life is the Path

Joshu asked Nansen: “What is the path?”

Nansen said: “Everyday life is the path.”

Joshu asked: “Can it be studied?”

Nansen said: “If you try to study, you will be far away from it.”

Joshu asked: “If I do not study, how can I know it is the paths?”

Nansen said: “The path does not belong to the perception world, neither does it belong to the nonperception world. Cognition is a delusion and noncognition is senseless. If you want to reach the true path beyond doubt, place yourself in the same freedom as sky. You name it neither good nor not-good.”

At these words Joshu was enlightened.

Joshu Washes the Bowl

A monk told Joshu: “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”

Joshu asked: “Have you eaten your rice porridge?”

The monk replied: “I have eaten.”

Joshu said: “Then you had better wash your bowl.”

At that moment the monk was enlightened.

Seizei Alone and Poor

A monk named Seizei asked of Sozan: “Seizei is alone and poor. Will you give him support?”

Sozan asked: “Seizei?”

Seizei responded: “Yes, sir.”

Sozan said: “You have Zen, the best wine in China, and already have finished three cups, and still you are saying they did not even wet your lips.”

Arresting the Stone Buddha

A merchant bearing fifty rolls of cotton goods on his shoulders stopped to rest from the heat of the day beneath a shelter where a large stone Buddha was standing. There he fell asleep, and when he awoke his goods had disappeared. He immediately reported the matter to the police.

A judge named O-oka opened court to investigate. “That stone Buddha must have stolen the goods,” concluded the judge. “He is supposed to care for the welfare of the people, but he has failed to perform his holy duty. Arrest him.”

The police arrested the stone Buddha and carried it into the court. A noisy crowd followed the statue, curious to learn what kind of a sentence the judge was about to impose.

When O-oka appeared on the bench he rebuked the boisterous audience. “What right have you people to appear before the court laughing and joking in this manner? You are in contempt of court and subject to a fine and imprisonment.”

The people hastened to apologize. “I shall have to impose a fine on you,” said the judge, “But I will remit it provided each one of you brings one roll of cotton goods to the court within three days. Anyone failing to do this will be arrested.”

One of the rolls of cloth which people brought was quickly recognized by the merchant as his own, and thus the thief was easily discovered. The merchant recovered his goods, and the cotton rolls were returned to the people.

The Hungry Student

There was once a student who was so poor all he ever had to eat was rice. Plain white rice. Morning, noon and night.

The student lived on the second floor of a building; on the first floor there was a fine restaurant. One hot day, after he had cooked up his rice, the student opened the window to get some air. AHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhh! All the smells from the restaurant below came wafting his way. He sat by the open window and began to eat. AHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhh! The smells seemed to flavor his rice! What a delicious discovery! Now, each time he cooked a meal, he would open the window and invite the smells to come in.

One day, the student was walking through the crowded streets with a friend. The friend was worried that the student had so little and cried, "You are so poor! You don't even have money for food. All you ever eat is rice. I tell you, why not quit your studies and go into business with me? I'll give you meat three times a day."

The student smiled and shook his head. "Oh, I would never quit my studies," he said, "Besides, it's not so bad..." and he proceeded to tell his friend all about the restaurant and the open window and the smells. Too bad for him! The owner of the restaurant was walking right behind them and he heard everything. He began to poke the student with his finger.

"Excuse me, excuse me...I am the owner of that restaurant."

The student turned around, "Is that so?" he brightened, "What a pleasure to meet you! And what a fine restaurant you must have! I myself have never been able to dine there, but the smells! Oh, the savory smells!"

"That's right," sneered the restaurant owner, "And you've been smelling my smells for some long time now. What would you say, about six or seven months?"

"Yes," the student nodded, "That sounds about right."

The owner's eyes tightened up. "Well," he whined, "You owe me some money!"

"What?" cried the student, "Surely there must be some mistake."

"Oh, no. No mistake. No mistake at all." The restaurant owner was busy now with paper and pencil, writing up a bill. "Smells from my restaurant, six or seven months... Money, money, money! You owe me money! "

"Sir, I owe you nothing. No!"

"Oh, yes!"


"Oh, yes!"


By now the two were shouting in the busy street and a crowd had gathered round. At last, someone called out: "You two will never settle this yourselves. Why not go and see Ooka? Ooka the Wise."

Ooka was a famous judge. This seemed like a very good idea, so the two of them hurried across town until they came to a huge building. Inside there was a long hall. And, at the end of the long hall, on a high chair behind a large desk was Ooka. Ooka the Wise.

The restaurant owner rushed up to Ooka and began his shrill complaint, "Ooka! Ooka! This man owes me money..." He told Ooka all about the rice and the window and the smells from his restaurant. Ooka listened intently. Then slowly, he turned to the student and asked, "Is this so? Have you been smelling this man's smells?"

"Uh, why yes. Yes, I have, sir," the student admitted.

"I see," said Ooka, "And do you have any money?" Now it just so happened that the student had every coin he owned in his pocket that day.

"Yes, yes I do." Ooka extended his hand. "Give me the coins," he ordered.

The student reached deep into his pockets and pulled out his coins. He handed them to Ooka. Ooka began to count the coins. Clink, clink, clink.

The restaurant owner's eyes lit up when he saw all that money. Clink, clink, clink. The student looked like he would cry. It was all the money he had. Clink. Ooka finished counting. He gathered up all the coins and then he handed them--back to the student.

"Wait!" cried the restaurant owner, "What about my payment?"

"My dear sir," said Ooka, "Did you not hear the clinking of the coins?"


"Well," smiled Ooka, "The clinking of the coins is the price of smells."

Three Zen Jokes

Q--What do you get when you cross a Zen Buddhist with a Druid?

A--Someone who worships the tree that is not there.
Q--What do you get when you cross a Zen Buddhist with a Druid mathematician?

A--Someone who worships the square roots of the tree that is not there.
Q--What do you get when you cross a Zen Buddhist with a Druid veterinarian?

A--Someone who worships the bark of the tree that is not there.

How To Rule a Country

The Country of Yang had been devastated by a palace insurrection and an invasion, and the older ruler had suffered an untimely and humiliating death. After visiting the sacked city and wounded soldiers, the new king Yang-Jau was disturbed and wondered how a similar situation could be prevented.

"Your Majesty, if you want to be an Emperor" said an advisor, named Go Wai; “you should treat your subordinates as teachers. To be a King, you should treat them as friends. To be a Lord, you should treat them as guests. If you wish to ruin your country, you should treat them as servants or even slaves. The choice is yours alone."

Impressed and a little surprised, the king politely returned, "Your statement is very interesting. Since I desire to be an Emperor, whom should I begin to respect?"

"Your Majesty might start with me," the advisor boldly suggested, "a little known person. As a result, other capable individuals, with greater reputations, will be envious and come to try their political fortunes here. These intellectuals, whose counsel you seek and esteem, having heard of your generosity and expecting to be treated likewise, will confidently approach your Majesty and freely present their ideas and suggestions. Your Majesty may then choose the best administrators from among them. Thus our country's prosperity and Your Majesty's potency will be secured."

The king was well pleased and acted swiftly. The news rapidly spread among neighboring countries. Hearing this, people were amazed. Many well-educated gentlemen resigned their current positions and relocated themselves to this country. In less than three years, after meticulous selections and severe competitions, a handful of distinguished and competent foreigners were properly appointed, with similar generous treatment from the king. They helped him to efficiently manage his country and steadily expand its borders.

The Two Different Monks

During the time of Guatama Siddharta there were no telephones or Internet or even a written language. Because communication is so vital for transmitting the teachings of the Buddha, a class of disciples called traveling monks arose to facilitate communication between the Buddha and his supporters.

Those who were chosen had to be in good physical condition, be completely honest, and have excellent memories. One such monk was Sadhonna.

Sadhonna was returning to the Deer Park where the Buddha was staying when he encountered a monk practicing the Sadmadhi of self denial.

The self-denying monk resembled cobwebs stretched over a skeleton. He was sitting on an anthill in the Lotus Position. He did not even twitch as ants pulled at his flesh.

Sadhonna called to him, "Fellow monk, I am on my way to see the Buddha.  Is there any message you would like to convey?" 

The self-denying monk grimaced and said, "Ask the Buddha, how many more lifetimes I will endure before attaining Buddhahood."

Sadhonna assured the self-denying monk that he would ask, and then continued on his journey.

Just before nightfall, he heard someone singing a little off key. He could see someone, dressed in monk's clothing, clumsily dancing in a little clearing in the woods.

He called out to him saying, "Fellow monk, I am on my way to see the Buddha. Is there any message you would like to convey?"

The dancing monk thought for a moment and said, "Yes, ask him when will I reach my enlightenment."

Sadhonna assured the dancing monk he would ask, and then he walked on to see the Buddha.

A few months later Sadhonna returned and encountered the self-denying monk. His flesh was so thin that his bones were visible. "The Buddha answered your question," Sadhonna said 

"How long until I reach my enlightenment?" whispered the self-denying monk.

"Four more lifetimes," answered Sadhonna.

The self-denying monk grimaced.

Sadhonna traveled a bit further and encountered the dancing monk. "The Buddha has answered your question," he said.

“How many more lifetimes?" asked the dancing monk.

Sadhonna pointed to a large tree with thousands of leaves shimmering in the sunlight and said "As many as the leaves on that tree."

The dancing monk laughed and attained enlightenment instantly.

24 Hours To Die

Raj asked Buddha, “Reverend Sir, how come my mind wanders around to forbidden places and yours does not?” “Sir, how come I do back-biting and you don't?” “Sir, how come I don't have compassion for others, while you have?” All the questions that Raj asked were of similar nature.

Buddha replied, “Raj, your questions are good, but it seems to me that in 24 hours from now you will die.”

Raj got up and started getting ready to go.

Buddha asked, “Raj, what happened? You came with such vitality now you are totally dismayed.”

Raj said, “Sir, my mother told me that your words are true and are to be held in high esteem. So please let me go so that I may meet my family members, friends and others before I die.”

Buddha said, “But there are still 24 hours. Sit, we will talk more.”

Raj said, “Reverend Sir, please let me go. I must meet my people before I die.”

So Raj left and went home. Met his mother and started crying. The word spread. His friends came; other family members came; neighbors came. Everyone was crying with Raj. Time flew.

Raj was busy either crying or counting the hours. When only 3 hours were left, he pulled up a cot and lied down. Although the Death has not yet arrived, poor Raj was kind of dead.

When only an hour was left, Buddha walked in.

Buddha said to Raj, “Raj, why are you lying down on the cot with your closed eyes. Death is still an hour away. And an hour is 60 minutes long. That's a lot of time. Get up, let us talk.”

Raj: “Sir, what is it now that you want to talk? Just let me die peacefully.”

Buddha: “Raj, there is still time and our talk will get over before the 'ordained' time.”

Raj: “Okay, Sir... say what you have to say.”

Buddha: “In the past 24 hours, did you curse anyone?”

Raj: “How could I curse anyone, I was all the time thinking about death.”

Buddha: “In the past 24 hours, did you think or wish ill for anyone?”

Raj: “How could I do that, I was all the time thinking about death.”

Buddha: “In the past 24 hours, did you steal?”

Raj: “Sir, how can you even ask that, I was all the time thinking about death?”

Finally the Buddha said, “Raj, I don't know who has to die and who has to live. But understanding the ultimate truth — i.e. death — can be very enlightening. All the questions you posed to me have been answered by yourself because of the awareness of death that you experienced during the past 24 hours. The difference between me and you is that you were aware of death for the past 24 hours, I have been aware for the past 24 years.”

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