The Preface to Encounters in Yoga and Zen

Preface   Stories of the type presented here are used in many spiritual schools, to a greater or lesser extent; nearly all teachers make some use of them. I have collected these over the years from a variety of sources: sometimes reminiscences of a former teacher are buried in an old book, or a temple magazine; one or two are folk stories, some are verbally transmitted, some would be difficult to trace to a source. There are one or two incidents personally experienced, and I have occasionally put a few introductory remarks.  Their function is to act as flint and steel in making a light. In this, the flint is gripped in the left hand, with some dry tinder (usually a herb) under the thumb near the edge; then the steel is struck with a glancing blow across the edge of the flint. There may be no spark; then one …

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The Introduction to Encounters in Yoga and Zen

Introduction   Cloth against cloth, or stone against stone: No clear result, and it is meaningless. Catch the flung stone in the cloth, Pin the wind-fluttered cloth with a stone.   This verse comes in a scroll of spiritual training belonging to one of the knightly arts in the Far East. In these traditions, instruction is given in the form of vivid images, not in terms of logical categories; it is meant to be a stimulus to living inspiration, not dead analysis. The apparent exactitudes of logic turn out to be of very limited value when applied to life, because then the terms can never be precisely defined. In the verse, the catching cloth stands for what is technically called ‘softness’, which is not the same as weakness; the stone stands for hardness, not the same as strength. Softness has a special meaning: it is not merely giving way or …

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Iron Rods in Yoga and Zen

Iron Rods   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 change in the heart was permanent, and took him to a training temple where the famous teacher accepted him.  The boy was very keen, and when the uncle made one of his monthly visits to see how he was getting on, the teacher remarked, ‘He is trying with everything he has: he is making good progress.’  In this temple there happened to be at the time a monk of about nineteen, whose family owned a rich temple, for which he was destined to become the priest for life. As can happen, his initial interest in Buddhism had …

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The Preacher in Yoga and Zen

The Preacher A famous preacher of Vedanta had a pupil of sixteen years who, under his instruction, acquired a very fine knowledge of the philosophy. He did not teach him rhetoric, as he did not consider that the boy would make a good speaker. One day however the master suddenly became ill just before he had to address a gathering. On an impulse, he sent the boy to speak in his place, telling him to explain the circumstances, and then try to give a plain exposition of the fundamentals, as he had been taught. To his surprise, it was reported to him that the speech by his pupil had been a great success. A little later, kindly friends hinted that it had even been said that the pupil was a better speaker than his master. (‘Absurd, of course, but we felt you ought to know.’) The preacher pondered for a …

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The Wine Pot in Yoga and Zen

The Wine Pot The final word of Mahayana Buddhism, as expressed in the Garland Sutra of China, is that Samsara, this world of suffering, is Nirvana, and the passions are enlightenment, bodhi. It is only illusion that causes us to see differences between them. ‘Samsara is Nirvana, the passions are enlightenment.’ This formula has sometimes been taken as a sort of slogan, in isolation from the spirituality of the rest of the Sutra, like the remark of St Paul, ‘To the pure, all things are pure.’ A man who set himself up as a Buddhist teacher began preaching the slogan that passions are enlightenment, claiming to exemplify it by himself drinking heavily and frequenting brothels. This was reported to a real saint who remarked briefly, ‘No one who is a slave to passions can claim to see them as enlightenment.’ The teacher came storming round to the home of the …

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Mirrors in Yoga and Zen

Mirrors A young and able businessman was hampered in his career by sudden outbursts of fury when he was contradicted in front of others – at a board meeting, for instance. He was making some attempts at spiritual training, and he consulted one of the senior members of the group. ‘I know you’re going to tell me to count backwards from twenty- nine or something like that, but the fact is that it’s so strong that all that just gets blown away. I see a sort of red mist coming in front of my eyes. Isn’t there something a bit more positive for people like me ?’ The senior looked at him, smartly dressed and clearly very careful about his appearance. ‘There might be, for someone like you as you say,’ he replied, ‘but you have to be willing to get a bit of a shock. Keep a little mirror …

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Fried Eels in Yoga and Zen

Fried Eels ‘You’ve often told us in your sermons that the Buddha-nature in all is always perfect, and their nature loses nothing even if the mind is disturbed, and gains nothing when the mind is calm. Why then do you tell people to control their passions and acquire peace of mind? On your own showing, nothing real is lost, for the true nature can never be lost or even diminished.’ ‘They think that they lose something, and that causes distress.’ ‘Then simply tell them nothing has been lost, It is wrong to treat it as if they did lose something by letting their mind run wild, and then tell them how to control it.’ ‘Let me tell you something that happened to me once. I was passing one of those fried eel shops; you know what a delicious smell there is when they are cooking. I didn’t want any eels, …

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A Tremendous Lot in Yoga and Zen

A Tremendous Lot A lecturer on Vedanta made a tour of the towns of northern India, dazzling the audiences with his erudition. He had a phenomenal memory, and his replies to questions were a revelation. The disciple of a traditional teacher went to one of these lectures, and was much impressed. On his return he asked his teacher about the lecturer: Ts he really as good as he seems? How much does he really know about Vedanta ?’ ‘Oh, a tremendous lot/ was the answer, ‘in fact, everything. And that’s all.’ The Pure Land In China and Japan many millions of Buddhists have been – and in Japan still are – devotees of the Pure Land doctrine. According to this a bodhisattva made a great vow which in time fulfilled itself as the manifestation of the Buddha Amitabha (infinite light), who created a Pure Land paradise in the West for …

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The Pure Land  in Yoga and Zen

The Pure Land  In China and Japan many millions of Buddhists have been – and in Japan still are – devotees of the Pure Land doctrine. According to this a bodhisattva made a great vow which in time fulfilled itself as the manifestation of the Buddha Amitabha (infinite light), who created a Pure Land paradise in the West for those who would take his name with faith. From this Pure Land it was easy to attain final Nirvana. An old lady of this faith was walking along the road when she met a Zen master, who said to her,  ‘On your way to the Pure Land, eh, Granny?’  She nodded.  ‘Holy Amitabha’s there, waiting for you, I expect. She shook her head.  ‘Not there ? The Buddha’s not in his Pure Land ? Where is he then ?’ She tapped twice over her heart, and went on her way. The …

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The Bridge in Yoga and Zen

The Bridge A blind man lived in a village in the deep mountains. He was not afraid of the mountain paths, which he had known since childhood, and when spring came and the snows melted, he used to pride himself on the being the first to go to visit his brother in another village not far away, but separated by a deep gorge about twelve feet across. The state maintained a small footbridge across it, consisting of three wide planks driven into the earth on either side, with a small wooden handrail. One autumn, when the blind man made his last trip that year, he noticed that the planks were becoming shaky, because the earth was crumbling away. He mentioned this to the village headman, who saw the government inspector when he made his rounds. The latter promised that the bridge would be repaired for the next year. When spring …

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The Fourth Truth in Yoga and Zen

The Fourth Truth An enthusiast was explaining about Buddhism to a friend, and told him, ‘Perhaps I can best give the spirit of it by one of the traditional stories. The bodhisattva – that is, the Buddha-to-be – was walking past a mountain, pondering the great questions, when he heard a mighty voice crying, “All beings must die.” It seemed that heaven and earth were resounding with the words. ‘The Buddha-to-be had already realized this truth in his own meditations, and he looked round to see where the voice came from. As his gaze turned to the mountain, the same great voice cried, “This is the law of all existence.” ‘The Buddha-to-be perceived that the voice came from the top of the mountain; he climbed it, to find that it was an extinct volcano. At the bottom of the crater, deep like an abyss, was coiled a huge dragon. As …

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The Vase in Yoga and Zen

The Vase A young Brahmachari in India was very high-spirited and tended to be happy-go-lucky in carrying out tasks. The teacher warned him about it, but he found it difficult to change. One day he said to the teacher: ‘Master, in the sermon the other day on karma, you said that if the karma supporting his present life had exhausted itself, a man would die’. ‘Yes, that is right’. ‘But suppose everyone took very great care of him, surely he could live just a little longer?’ ‘No; if his span of life has come to an end, it will come to an end.’ ‘And you said, teacher, that it applies not only to man but to everything.’ ‘Yes; if a thing’s karma is to perish, it must perish.’ ‘Well,’ said the boy, ‘I was dusting in the hall this morning, and that vase of Ganges water which you brought back …

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The Sieve in Yoga and Zen

The Sieve A group of devotees invited a master of meditation to the house of one of them to give them instruction. He told them that they must strive to acquire freedom from strong reactions to the events of daily life, an attitude of habitual reverence, and the regular practice of a method of meditation which he explained in detail. The object was to realize the one divine life pervading all things. ‘In the end you must come to this realization not only in the meditation period, but in daily life. The whole process is like filling a sieve with water.’ He bowed and left. The little group saw him off, and then one of them turned to the others, fuming. ‘That’s as good as telling us that we’ll never be able to do it. Filling a sieve with water, I ask you! That’s what happens now, isn’t it? At …

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Pearls  before Swine in Yoga and Zen

Pearls  before Swine Sometimes from an unexpected quarter one can get a new light on a very familiar phrase, so that it shows a completely different meaning. One of the best-known texts in the Bible is the one about the pearls and swine: ‘Neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.’ Now one can see that the pigs won’t value pearls, because they do not know what they are. But why should they turn on you and rend you? I’d always vaguely supposed this was a symbol of mindless malice towards what is felt to be spiritually superior, but that idea must be wrong; if they don’t know the pearls are valuable, they won’t know there’s anything superior to resent. In 1963-4 I used to take part in a weekly radio dialogue, with a Japanese Buddhist priest, in …

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Help No Help in Yoga and Zen

Help No Help Sometimes a new idea can change the whole landscape of endeavour, so to speak; everything appears in quite a different light. This applies in most fields of human activity, but in the case of spiritual endeavours it has some special overtones. Take the case of doing certain jobs for the spiritual group. Naturally everyone would like to choose their job; someone good at adding would like to do the accounts, and someone good at gardening would like to help in the garden. But, as the Christian saying has it, a cross chosen is not a true cross. To do what one can do well where others can see it is an assertion of personality, and it has not much value as a discipline, though the group may get some benefit from it. (Even that benefit is usually offset by the unconscious arrogance of the expert, perpetually putting …

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The Buddhas Fingers in Yoga and Zen

The Buddhas Fingers A buddhist nun in Japan, who by her strong character, farsightedness and sympathetic persuasion had a great influence in the community where she lived, was asked how she came to give her life to Buddhism. She said that she had lost her parents when a small child, and had been brought up by her aunt, a nun in charge of a temple. The aunt was very busy with charitable work, and could not give the child as much time as she would have liked. She took the little girl into the temple and they stood before the Buddha image, seated with the hands joined in the position called Meditation on the Dharma-world. The right hand is laid on the left one, both index-fingers are bent, and the thumb of each hand joins the index finger to form a rough circle. She presented the child to the Buddha …

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Gifts in Yoga and Zen

Gifts In the sermon, the preacher said that a gift must be not only proper in its time and place and recipient, but the heart of the giver must be pure. If there is a desire for recognition, or for a return of any kind, or even just a feeling of superiority, the gift will be tainted, and in the long run will not do the intended good. Afterwards one of the listeners said to an experienced senior, ‘I can’t see that. I can understand that something wrong in the heart of a giver might spoil the merit of the gift for him, but it won’t make any difference to the receiver. If a man’s hungry, it doesn’t matter to him whether he gets some food from a saint or from the greatest villain alive – he just wants the food.’ The senior made no reply, but began to walk …

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The backhander in Yoga and Zen

The backhander Traditionally and historically, the Chinese have not been fond of fighting. They have generally rated the warrior’s role as something undesirable though sometimes necessary. They could fight well when needed; Confucius remarked, T do not like to fight, but if I must fight, I win.’ But they do not think that a warrior, for instance, is specially suited for spiritual training, as was thought in India, where the Buddha came from a warrior line, and in Japan, where Zen first came in through the warriors of Kamakura. In the classic of Tao, one of the most ancient Chinese scriptures, it is said that the fighting man is an ill-omened instrument, and the Way of Heaven has no love for him. Yet sometimes it has to make use of him. A great Japanese warrior commented on this: ‘The bow and arrow, the swords short and long, are unblessed tools …

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The Tortoise in Yoga and Zen

The Tortoise After the tortoise had won the race against the hare, the other animals began to consult him about improving their running speeds. They had not seen what happened during the race: half of them had been at the start, and the other half at the finishing tape. The first group had seen the hare dashing off into the distance, and the other group had seen the tortoise crawl across the finishing line, and the hare running up second. No one had actually seen the tortoise moving fast, but they came to believe, as the only explanation, that he must have gone into some sort of over-drive during the main part of the race, slowing down when he had passed the hare and was leading by a huge margin. As the animals had no watches, none of them knew just how long the race had taken. No one listened …

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Eighty percent is perfection in Yoga and Zen

Eighty percent is perfection If actions – even the best of actions – are accompanied with the thought ‘I am doing good’, the benevolent man may become depressed. For instance UN medical teams, working in primitive areas, have greatly reduced infant mortality by giving some simple instructions to the mid wives. Yet it was found later that the population of the villages had not increased. The reason was, that there was not enough food to support any more; so the babies saved at birth died a lingering death of starvation a little later. Even when actions are completely successful in actualizing their hoped-for results, there may be unforeseen and unwelcome effects. A saying of the Soto Zen sect is, ‘Eighty per cent is perfection/ They do not explain such phrases, but a parallel comment runs something like this: ‘Do things well. But not very well. If you do a thing …

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Grace of God in Yoga and Zen

Grace of God Some followers of Yoga tend to think that it is somehow ‘higher’ not to believe in any God. ‘There is no God other than the higher self of man they say, throwing their heads back proudly. This is fine as long as circumstances go quite well; it sounds all right to a young person, barefoot and more or less permanently camping, who is nevertheless sure of middle-class parents, or at any rate the Welfare State, to fall back on. It may sound all right in a comfortable flat surrounded by imported luxuries. But when in real difficulties, facing serious illness or imprisonment or even heavy responsibilities, it begins to ring hollow. Those who say it may find that they have promoted themselves to the sixth form without being able to tackle the sixth-form syllabus. The more his spiritual training progresses, the more a student comes to recognize …

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Will of God in Yoga and Zen

Will of God Allied to the doctrine of the grace of God is the doctrine of the will of God, and this too can be a stumbling block to those who use it as an excuse. A famous judge in India, at the end of the last century, was well-known as a devotee of God, and once a thief who was brought before him tried to make use of the fact. The charge was completely proved and the thief made no attempt to deny it, but said instead, ‘Your Honour, I only wish to say this. When the opportunity came to steal that, I felt an irresistible impulse to do it, and I thought to myself that it must be the will of God that I should steal it. And it was the will of God, surely, Your Honour, because otherwise it couldn’t have happened.’ ‘Are you denying that you …

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Tea in Yoga and Zen

Tea Not long ago, a Japanese Tea Ceremony master made a visit to a certain foreign country to give demonstrations. His hosts found a beautiful garden, with two pavilions in it. In one the guests were to assemble, and then a group of fifty would go to the other pavilion, where the master was to demonstrate the ceremony. After about forty minutes, the audience would change; those who had witnessed it went back, and a new group walked the hundred yards to the master’s pavilion to see a new performance. He commented when he returned to Japan, Tn that country the men shout and the women scream. When I heard the very first group coming across, shouting and screaming, I thought, “These people will never understand the spirit of Tea.” But to my amazement, they sat very still and attentive, and there was a good atmosphere. I thought, “They have …

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Chains in Yoga and Zen

Chains A man said to his teacher, ‘I have tried to break my habit of going to wine-shops and brothels, but I can’t do it. I am in chains to my nature. You can’t expect a man in chains to do anything.’ The teacher met him going to the town one evening. He was smartly dressed and walking briskly in anticipation. The teacher said, ‘You don’t look like a man in chains.’

Blue Cloth in Yoga and Zen

The Blue Cloth Sometimes in a spiritual group a dispute develops over practically nothing. Although it is so trivial, people feel strongly about it. No one seems to know the cause of what is happening, or what to do. When the teacher first founded the group they were poor, and had only a cheap brown 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 on the Upanishadic text: ‘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 …

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Sweeping in Yoga and Zen

Sweeping A foreigner applied to enter a Zen temple. He had made no preparations, and could neither sit in the formal posture without pain, nor understand what was said. The teacher told him, through the interpreter, that it would be a very hard time. He persisted and finally was allowed to come in. As usual in such cases, he felt that he must make a special contribution to the life of the temple, and all he could do was the physical work. He made it a rule to get up very early and undertake the daily chores, beginning with sweeping the garden. He discovered that the head monk did not always rouse the monks at the fixed time; sometimes he let them sleep on, when they had had a difficult day. The foreigner, however, was always up. Slowly he came to resent the fact that others were not following the …

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The Needle in the Haystack in Yoga and Zen

The Needle in the Haystack A spiritual teacher in India said to two pupils: ‘Imagine that what you are seeking is represented by an iron needle buried somewhere in a haystack. You must find that needle. Think it over, and tell me tomorrow how you would go about looking for it – this will give you an insight into the spiritual search.’ When they came back the next day, one said: T should set fire to the haystack and watch it burn to ashes, and then wait for the wind to blow them away. In the end I should see the needle lying before me.’ ‘That is the path of the recluse,’ commented the teacher, ‘who gives up everything. It is a true path if heroically pursued right to the end – but from one point of view it might seem a pity to waste all the hay.’ Then the …

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Incredible in Yoga and Zen

Incredible Many people searching for some reality above the ordinary experience of the world tend to think of things of the spirit as a sort of package deal. One may practise Buddhist meditation as a means of attaining spiritual insight and independence, but then one is in duty bound, as it were, also to believe in palmistry (Western and Eastern, though the principles are entirely different), astrology, geomancy, and so on. Apart from the fact that the Buddha himself forbade such practices, there are many disadvantages in the attitude of ‘It’s all true, and more.’ The Chinese saying is, that wherever the people gather, there the pickpockets too will come, and this is true of spiritual things. Oddities of thought are built up into fantastic systems, skilfully peddled to credulous people who end up bitterly disappointed. A man in one of the great cities of the East, who had a …

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Qualification in Yoga and Zen

Qualification The king of a small state in the south of India used to meditate every day on himself as a servant of God. He limited the satisfaction of his desires to what he thought appropriate to a servant, and practised a servant’s simplicity of life. After some years, this practice produced in him extraordinary energy and clear-sightedness; his kingdom was a success internally, and the neighbouring kings soon found it did not pay to venture to extend their territory. The king’s spiritual adviser (though not his teacher) was one of his ministers to whom the king owed, and knew that he owed, a good deal of his success. This minister was an advanced practicant of meditation. One day the king learned, by chance, that the minister’s own form of meditation was on the self as infinite shining space. He told the minister that he would like to go on …

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Drunk in Yoga and Zen

Drunk A great spiritual teacher used to live in obscurity as a beggar, and his pupils did the same. One disciple, a good speaker, having completed the training and received his teacher’s mandate, began speaking in market-places. His words had a tremendous effect, and the ecclesiastical authorities made inquiries about him. In the end they found out what a great teacher he had had, and pressed him to accept a high office. The teacher in his poor clothes came to the inauguration ceremony, and, looking at the magnificence in which his disciple was now robed, said, ‘You don’t need those things to tell people the holy Truth. It’s a sort of intoxication – you and them both.’ Thereafter the disciple, even when he became what corresponds to an archbishop, dressed as plainly as he could. But for a big ceremony he had to wear one of the splendid formal robes. …

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Meditation in Yoga and Zen

Meditation A man used to complain to his teacher that he couldn’t meditate. ‘I can’t hold my thought on it for long -1 start thinking what we will be having for breakfast, or some argument we’ve had in the family, or whether I shall be transferred at work.’ One day the teacher suddenly blazed up and shouted, Tm the fool, to have taken on a fool like you at all! I’m going to finish with you – why should I go on? Come back tomorrow, and unless you can give me one good reason why I should still see you, you can take your things and go.’ The pupil tried to stammer an apology, but the teacher cut him short and physically pushed him out. That night he could not sleep: he was wondering what he could do to get the teacher to keep him on. Next day he brought …

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The Way of the Merchant in Yoga and Zen

The Way of the Merchant Be your concern with action alone, never with results. Let not the fruit of action be your motive, nor yet be attached to inaction. Steady in yoga do your actions, casting off attachment; Be the same in success and failure. Evenness of mind is yoga. (Gita II. 47. 48) In some countries of the East, the merchant was not highly regarded. He was thought to be dominated by selfish profit, and lacking in the inner strength of the warriors and the calm of the priestly class. A young warrior got to know a merchant in his city; something about this man’s character attracted him. Once he went to sympathize after the merchant had suffered a big loss, but he found him not at all disturbed, and another time when he knew that a minister had made important purchases from the merchant, the latter did not …

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Powers in Yoga and Zen

Powers In the great Yoga classic of Patanjali it is stated that a man who practises virtue and does not hate those who do not (sutra 1.33) can acquire various powers (sutra III.23) such as a knowledge of remote or concealed things (sutra III.2 5), by making special concentrations on them. But in sutra III.3 7 it goes on to say that such ‘perfections’ are obstacles to spiritual progress and lead to relapses, because the excitement they cause will disturb and darken the mind which exercises them. Many people find it rather irritating to hear these things being mentioned and then immediately ruled out on grounds which are not necessarily convincing. They usually think they would do rather well if they could exercise real power, such as that of a leader of some great movement. The head of a large Buddhist sect was once asked by a reporter whether it …

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The Door in Yoga and Zen

The Door One wing of the palace abutted on a rubbish heap; there was the outline of a door faintly to be seen on the wall. It was rumoured that each year the king stood for an hour behind the door, and if anyone asked for admittance, he took him in. It was not said what the king would do then. A merchant was wronged by a minister, but could not prove his case. He abandoned the rest of his property, and stood day and night in front of the outline of the door, every hour asking for admission in the hope that sometime the king would be there. At first he nearly died of hardship. Then a passing horseman threw him an old straw coat, and a beggar brought him some scraps. The city people heard of him, and came to see the man standing in front of the …

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The Calligrapher in Yoga and Zen

The Calligrapher Tesshu was one of the most famous calligraphers in Japan at the end of the nineteenth century. Unlike other masters, he would write for anyone, and never looked at the fee which they might offer. He threw all the envelopes, unopened, into a chest in his hall; when someone came in need, he opened them one after another until he had the required amount to meet the asked-for loan or gift. A butcher once boldly asked him whether he would write a signboard for his shop. The master’s disciples were horrified – a tradesman asking for a masterpiece to hang in the street to increase his business! Tesshu said, ‘Will it improve the appearance of the street?’ ‘Of course,’ they said, ‘But he is not thinking of that, but purely of money, purely of money.’ The master said, ‘Probably he does feel that a sign written by me …

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Obstacles in Yoga and Zen

Obstacles A man asked the abbot of a monastery outside a city whether he could come each weekend to meditate there, as at home in the city there were constant hindrances and the noise from the street interrupted his meditation. ‘You may come,’ said the abbot, ‘but there will still be interruptions.’ The man came the next weekend, and in the afternoon entered the great meditation hall, all alone. The place was absolutely silent, and quite bare except for a small image of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom at one end, with a single stick of incense burning in front of it. In the dim peace he felt his nerves relax and sat down to try to enter his meditation. After a little the place felt almost too silent; he thought he heard a tiny sound and opened his eyes a little. He noticed the stick of incense, and began to …

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Karma in Yoga and Zen

The teacher in his sermon was explaining the doctrine of karma The teacher in his sermon was explaining the doctrine of karma, which teaches that all voluntary actions produce an effect on the doer in this or future lives. ‘If you want to know what you have done in the past/ he said, ‘look at your present circumstances, which are the result of what you did; if you want to know what your future will be, look at what you are doing now, which will shape it. In the Christian Bible too the same doctrine is hinted at in the words, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” ’ Afterwards one of the pupils said to the teacher, ‘In the Christian Bible there is a story of the man who was attacked and left for dead by robbers. Two people passed by on the other side of the road, and …

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Unsteadiness in Yoga and Zen

Unsteadiness In her last work, Interior Castle, St Teresa remarks that instability of spiritual states is often a cause of bewilderment to spiritual aspirants. They felt sure that what they experienced at times of devotion in favourable circumstances would be with them for ever; when they found later that somehow it had gone, they were liable to lose confidence and give up. A Zen master, discussing the same point, compares the spiritual path to a journey in a rowing boat along a coast where there is a strong tide. Half the time it helps, and half the time the tide is against the boat. Beginners usually enter on the practice when things are favourable, and they make rapid progress up to a point, but when they find the ‘tide’ has changed, many of them become discouraged because they find they can hardly advance any further, and they stop trying. So …

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The Nesting Instinct in Yoga and Zen

The Nesting Instinct It was an old country, hundreds of years behind the times, and a small group of young people in the capital began agitating for reform. They themselves lived on little, and spent their time finding out the vested interests and centres of inertia that kept their country backward, and exposing them in little duplicated leaflets. An important factor in their growing success was the examples they cited of other countries which had successfully reformed. Others began to join them. The Home Minister sent a private message to them, T am a supporter of your ideas, but cannot declare myself for you publicly; I can help you better by remaining at my post. But I can arrange for the transfer to you of a house with a considerable estate and several cottages; it is a bit outside the capital and rather tumble-down, but you could get it straight …

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New in Yoga and Zen

New A new disciple joined the group, who did not seem to have the usual set of virtues and vices. He somehow managed to be both arrogant and cringing, over-blunt and hypocritical, lazy and yet fussy over trivialities, timid and then suddenly reckless. The head disciple remarked to the teacher, T don’t know how we are going to make anything out of him.’ That evening the teacher was taking his evening walk with the head disciple and two others, and the teacher prolonged the walk till late into the night. Finally they returned by way of the house of a famous university professor, known for his aggressiveness and irascibility, and who was also a heavy drinker. He had just published a book on some intricate points in the philosophy of Chandrakirti. It was a hot summer evening, and they saw that the professor, as usual in the summer, had his …

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