A Zen Story

Why does Christ provoke the authorities to make away with him, and utter on the cross the first line of Psalm 22, “Lord, Lord, why hast Thou forsaken me”? (This becomes a song of triumph only at the end.) Why does Krishna, an earlier incarnation, born as a warrior and a matchlessly skilled fighter, take on himself the role of an unarmed charioteer in the great battle, so that his body is riddled with arrows? Why did Buddha, born to inherit the leadership of his people, become a wandering beggar to spread his teaching? One answer is that many of those who come for spiritual teaching are in suffering, and it has to be demonstrated by example that spiritual realization can be tried for, and attained, in states of suffering. Instruction from someone who has the same difficulties and overcomes them is more effective than that given from the heights. A boy of twelve in Japan lost his father, to whom he was much attached. The shock and desolation turned his mind to Buddhism, and he asked his uncle, now looking after the family and himself a devout Buddhist, whether he could enter a temple. The uncle believed that the …

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Last Words

A teacher of the Gita Yoga had as a disciple an Englishman brought up to restrain expression of feeling. The teacher approved of this as a basis, but got him to take part in amateur theatricals and public speaking so that there should be some creative expression. The Englishman’s mother was sceptical, (though she had been baptized) and often sarcastic about religion. They lived far apart, and when they did meet he never talked about his beliefs and practice. She had a vague idea that he was inclined to some strange Oriental cult, but she would dismiss the subject of religion in a few sharp words if ever it appeared on the conversational horizon. She recognised that he was a good son to her. When finally she fell very ill, he took her into his home to look after her in the final stages. Now the teacher had told this disciple, as he told all of them, not to feel he was giving up the religion into which he had been born. He recommended him to read from the New Testament every day, which he did with slowly increasing interest. Later he took to having a crucifix by his bed …

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Gift No Gift

All spiritual schools lay stress on giving. But to know how to give is a great spiritual virtue, and there are many gifts which are no gifts at all. A grandfather came to visit his son’s family in another part of the country` and when he left` gave to the little grandson some special sweet cakes. That evening the manager of the company where the father worked came to see him for an emergency business consultation. It was the custom to put a display of cakes in front of a guest` who however by the same custom never took more than one. The mother had no cakes in the house, and asked the child to give his cakes to entertain the ” uncle “. The boy refused` but the mother pointed out that though the cakes must be given` the visitor would only take one and leave the rest. ” Well`” said the little boy ” if it will help father` and if it is only one . . .” The cakes were put on a tray and he carried them in and said : ” These cakes were given to me by grandfather` but I want you to have …

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The Blue Cloth

When the teacher first founded the group they were poor, and had only a cheap undyed cloth over the altar on which was the form of the god. They worshipped with prayers and mantras for the first half of the meeting, and then when the minds were to some extent pacified, they meditated: “O holy divinity, I am what thou art, and thou, O holy divinity, art what I am.” The teacher had once mentioned that to see or meditate on the colour blue has a calming effect on the mind, and added that blue was the best colour for an altar cloth. This remark was taken down, but not noticed at the time because they were so poor. Then it was forgotten. Many years later, a new member reading over the old records came across it. He bought a blue silk cloth, and had it beautifully embroidered with the mantra of the divinity. He presented it to the man whose responsibility was the altar-cloth, who accepted it without comment and put it away. But the old cloth continued to be used. The new member tried to accept this, but after a few weeks he went to the head disciple, …

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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 there a long time. Nothing came to me. On the last day as I was coming away disappointed, I noticed the inscription above the shrine: The Gift of Fearlessness. Was that what you meant?” “Yes,” repiled Tesshu. “Complete fearlessness is the secret of fencing. It must be complete. There are those who are not afraid when they face an enemy with a sword, but who are cowards when they confront the assaults of passions like greed, and delusions like fame. Complete fearlessness in the face of the inner as well as the outer enemies is the end of our Way of Fencing.” (2) THE BELL This was when Ekido was abbot of the Zen temple Tentoku-in, in the nineteenth century. One morning he heard the dawn bell being rung and after a little he called his attendant from the next room and asked: “Who is ringing the bell …

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The Magistrate

A TEACHER of the Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita came to the district and set up a school in a village there. When this was reported to the local magistrate (the chief administrative officer for the district), he was displeased. He was a follower of a Western philosopher who held that traditional religion and its compulsive morality was the cause of many of the ills of man. The magistrate had a great love for the people of the district, and worked night and day to bring them to what he saw as modern and progressive views. He therefore put many obstacles in the way of the Yoga teacher, and for a time was successful in turning public opinion against him. When he heard that the school was also teaching secular subjects to the local children (admittedly poorly served by the present arrangements, because of the poverty of the district) he briefed the school inspector to apply the most stringent tests to the teaching methods. The latter however reported favourably, and in fact two of the Yoga teacher’s disciples had been school teachers, and were teaching very ably for a tiny salary. In five years, three of the pupils of this …

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