Love must not be confused with exclusiveness

The teacher was speaking about love, and saying that it must not be confused with exclusiveness, for instance, love of country is supposed to be strengthened by hatred of other countries as possible enemies. But this is not really love of country, the real love of...

Advice in the Extremity of Need

This is an old story from the West Country of England. A very rich man falls sick and on his deathbed tells his only son that he will get all the property. Then he passes to him a strong leather belt with a big metal buckle, and says, "Son, promise me that you will...

Shaku Soyen gives Suzuki hidden help with the koan

 For a teacher or expert to help without the pupil knowing or recognizing it is good for a pupil's motivation. But if the teacher is not present, it may induce despair when there is continued failure or seeming failure. For the pupil to know he is helped may on the...

For a complete change, you have to change yourself too

"The doctor says that I need a complete change. So I am going to Italy, to stay for a month with a family which one of my friends knows well. It's beautiful country round there. They don't speak English, but I know a little Italian, and they say they would like their...

Practising Yoga yourself to meet a real need

A learned scholar of Indian thought, both Buddhist and Vedanta, thought he would like to get some insights into the actual methods of practice. After some search he discovered that there was a man reputed to be an expert in the practice as well as the philosophy of...

The Ethical Bazaar

A businessman who practised yoga in a group, went to a senior for advice. "There is an opportunity for me to do quite a bit of good to some people in need, but it would mean tricking another man. I know that he is quite a rogue, so I feel tempted. The good would...

Dragon Head, Snake Tail

Dragon Head, Snake Tail is a Chinese phrase meaning something that starts out very impressively but ends up as commonplace. An example is the following folk-tale, found all over the world. A father leaves to his children not much more than a house and an adjoining...

Seeing The Unseen

‘It is clear before you, but you do not see it,’ says the Zen master. ‘It is self-evident, but hard to find’, says the holy Indian text. They are speaking of the ultimate reality, the supreme goal of human life, and some people find these seeming contradictions...

No-name bridge

Some coastlines in the East, owing to volcanic origins, have small islands separated from the mainland by only a small stretch of water. But the current may be so strong that in rough weather a ferry may have to wait hours before it can attempt to cross. And in some...

They are indeed praying for him – to die.

Sometimes people complain that there are many things that go wrong for them. There are innumerable little worries about personal relationships, and not being able to afford this or that, or the noise of the traffic and so on and so on. They feel, "If only I were a...

God never seems to be at home

A new disciple in a yoga group had some difficulties and she prayed for help. After a couple of weeks of no change, she put her case to a senior: "I pray and pray for help, but there's no response, God never seems to be at home." The senior said: "This is something...

Enthusiastic students were told the story of Kyogen

In the classical Zen of China a monk, called by the Japanese Kyogen, was famous as a scholar who after many years had mastered the scriptures. When the Abbot, his teacher died the new Abbot told him he could if he wished leave the monastery as he had now full...

The Blotch made by Zen Master Shido Bunan

The Zen Master Shido Bunan was once appealed to by a family of local lords at Okubo. For over twenty years they had been plagued by continuous misfortunes and they had consulted various astrologers, spirit mediums, and even some Buddhist priests, but without success....

Money has nothing to do with the Truth

Some of the Christian missionaries who went to Japan in the mid-19th century were scholarly men, who mastered the language both spoken and Classical, and also made a study of basic Buddhism. However, one such found to his dismay that he was sometimes unable to meet...

Giving up a bad habit by making it difficult

If one wants to give up a bad habit, but is not prepared at first simply to break it off, then a useful strategy is just to make it difficult. I saw a Japanese man, a heavy smoker, who had got the idea that it was bad for his health, and had evolved a strategy to...

Don’t make ugly faces at the karma-mirror

A noted, middle-aged poet lived like a recluse in a remote area. The country had a strong tradition of poetry; for every public occasion, and some private ones, there would be a commission to write a poem. This poet had, aided by some strokes of luck, established a...

Why had the teacher hesitated for so long?

In the first part of the 20th century, when the living Vedanta of the Gita was brought across to the West by Dr. Shastri, few of the great Sanskrit classics had been adequately translated into English. Among his early disciples was a middle-aged Scottish lady, who...

Compassion is catching

The owner of a small wine-shop in a not very prosperous district of Tokyo had to be a tough man, if only to deal with penniless alcoholics demanding a drink. One such wine-shop proprietor related this incident to a Buddhist priest. It was the end of the year, when...

Intensity of practice is nothing to do with time

A teacher told his pupils that a true yogi would attain an intensification of his practice and experience every six weeks. A pupil of some years came to the master a little later, recalled the remark, and went on: `I have come across a marvellous story about this,...

Life poisoned by envy of something imagined

This is a story of two students in a provincial town in Iran. There were two very promising students and the new government of the Shah was looking for new young talent to promote into government and sent a minister to provincial towns to recruit the brightest. These...

Anger need not have lasting effect

The minds of the wise are not without movement and action, but they are without binding feelings, without fixed attitudes of `I' and `mine'. A man said to a teacher: "I do get angry, but only with good reason. After all, when Christ drove the money-changers from the...

First Principle was brushed by the great priest Ingen

The two main Zen sects in Japan are the Soto, which has many temples in the country, and the Rinzai which is more associated with towns. There is a third sect, much smaller and a late comer, which derives from the Chinese patriarch Obaku with its main temple at Uji....

Mist and Rain

The great Zen teacher, who was one of the first to bring Zen from China to Japan, in the 13th century, was asked at the end of a public ceremony: ‘Now you have come from China to Japan, how does your teaching differ?’ Bukko replied: ‘It does not. It is all the same....

Final Penalty

My father was a soldier in World War I. He joined up immediately the war broke out in 1914 (just as I was born) and came home after the Armistice in November 1918. He was one of the lucky few who passed through the whole war without a scratch. Like most of the...

One Dharma A Thousand Words

Priest Horin, mediaeval Master of Kenchoji temple was asked by one of the Kenchoji gardeners who worked on the lands there, “Is there any virtue in the recitation, or listening to the recitation, of the sutras if you don’t understand the real meaning?” The priest...

Sake Wine and Samadhi

Gudo was the Master at the Myoshinji Zen temple in Kyoto. He was famous as the teacher of the 17th century many-talented Emperor Gomizu-no-o, who was also a devout Buddhist. Gudo occasionally had cause to visit Yedo, the capital, about 300 miles from Kyoto along the...

Satan

Quite often in our lives we are going to meet Satan, either in other people or in ourselves. We don’t realize it because we often fail to recognise him. Here is an example from a time when smoking was just a social habit and not yet known to be a killer: A certain...

Two Yogic Illustrations

INTERLACED BRANCHES When there is a grove of trees growing closely together, their branches can get interlaced, so that they seem to support one another. Because they are so close, their individual roots are often very shallow, but the whole thing looks like a stable...

Two Zen Stories

(1) TESSHU Tesshu was asked by a brilliant young fencer: "What is the inmost secret of the Way of Fencing?" He said: "Go to the Kannon temple at Asakusa and pray to be enlightened about it." After a week the young man came back and said: "I went every day and prayed...

Help, No Help

SOMETIMES a new idea can change the whole landscape of endeavour, so to say: everything appears in quite a different light. This applies to most fields of human activity, but in the case of spiritual endeavours it has some special overtones. Take the case of doing...

Leaves and Moss

Leaves and Moss by Trevor Leggett In some Japanese Temples, moss is cultivated as a symbol of inner realization. Its progress cannot be forced, and the cultivation in fact amounts to removing the obstacles to the natural growth. If they are patiently and continuously...

Stories

One of the great means of instruction is telling tales. The Sufi classic Mathnavi, and the Zen writings, are full of them. The stories are not fully explained; we are expected to find the inner meaning by our own efforts. Pondering on a story is compared to churning...

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