Zen stories

Zen stories

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Jan 16, 2010 7:55 pm

There is a Zen story that goes something like:

Two monks are walking across a meadow and come to a river. At the river there was a woman who could not swim. She asked if the monks could help her across. So one of the monks let her climb on his back/shoulders while he carried her across. At the other end he let her go and she went on her way, thanking him.

The two monks continued on their journey for some time. Then the other monk said in an angry tone, "how could you touch that woman, carrying her on your shoulders?" The monk replied, "I let that woman go at the other side, way back there; it appears you are still carrying her."
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Re: Zen stories

Postby ronnewmexico » Sat Jan 16, 2010 8:37 pm

That is a very nice story clear and to the point. (jokingly)....I have used it to self justify many a moment of hedonistic excess.

Here's a story but it may not be Zen(I don't know). I have performed work of volunteer nature in many places. In these places I have stolen many a thing. One of these places was a Zendo, another was a Tibetan Buddhist temple. I don't recall from where I have stolen this or even if I have stolen it at large. I do not advocate for stealing and admittedly are suffering karmic effect from such stealings, to include having my posessions stolen. But since I give little value to these things called posessions, it is of no matter. That payment, I will gladly make, (but that is a aside). I am after all a thief of the most basest sort. And this may be product of such, so read with caution or not at all.

Nevertheless that is as it is....here is the story to add to the excellent story given, though this may be not so excellent, but story it is.

Three monks were being instructed by their master. He brought them to a town of many people. He instructed them thusly....Monks you must now perform intentionally a defiled act. Three acts are possible. One to drink alcohole of significant quantity, one to hit a person, one to have sex with a woman. YOu must choose which to perform.

Well three monks and three choices, despite their consternation the master was insistant, so they had to comply regardless of the immediate harm done.

So one drank, one hit a person, and one had sex. Drinking seems the least of harming things as it harms only the monk(his vows), not others. Sex could harm others, as it harms the monk himself(his vows) but possibly also the woman, as monks and cannot care for a potential child born. The violent act..appears to harm the victim of the violence and also the perpertrator as karmic effect directly.

So we have three choices..... direct harmful effect to other(violence), potential harmful effect to other(sex), and seemingly only self harm(to monastic vows). All three actually causing self harm as all three violate monastic vows.

So the first monk chose, drinking to excess.

IN the end however the one who drank...he also ended up in his drunken fevor, punching a man and having sex.

So.......don't drink!!!! Or let others make the first choice when harm must be performed!! Or...the one choosing first if bodhistava was his rule, would he not choose the action performing the most obvious harm (perhaps the violence) or potential harm(perhaps the sex),and thus incuring the effect(karmically) of such harm performed rather than his other monks suffering thusly(since such act must be performed).....was he not thinking firstly of himself? Or is this doublethink?

So it becomes quite complex....like getting the goose out of the bottle I suppose, quite complex.

So now dear readers is the story, the real story....
See, the first monk, knowing the story to be a stolen story, the product of stealing; since he is a monk he could not read the story, as it violated his vows related to nonstealing. The second monk, seeing spiritual value(perhaps) read the story,despite his vows, and after reading performed a Vajrasattava mantra and ceremony to alleviate the suffering of the stealer of the story, and perhaps the monks consequential suffering. The third monk read the story and did nothing at all considering that spiritual things of such a nature cannot actually be stolen(and he found the story not very interesting) . The master he drank a bottle of wine and told no single person to do anything. He however did not appear to be drunk.

Now who exactly is it that is drunk? I don't claim to know.....perhaps you do? Or is that perhaps another story for another day?

To add to the other excellent story in the first post, about monks and people of that sort, who I as a layperson hold in very high esteem, truth be known.
Last edited by ronnewmexico on Sat Jan 16, 2010 10:15 pm, edited 4 times in total.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Zen stories

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sat Jan 16, 2010 10:09 pm

That's one of my favorites, thanks David :namaste:
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Re: Zen stories

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Jan 17, 2010 4:56 pm

Hi Ron,

I have heard a different variation to that story from a Theravada monk. I not sure which came first, the Zen or the Theravada version, but here is the other version:

A monk is ordered to do one of the following:

1. Have sex with a prostitute.
2. Kill a goat.
3. Drink a bottle of whiskey.

The monk thinks about it and knows that if he has sex, it will be a parajika offense, entailing defeat from the Order (disrobing). So he decides that is out. He knows that killing a goat is also a heinous crime, violating the First Precept so decides that is out too. He knows that drinking alcohol is not allowed, but perhaps not as bad as killing, so decides to drink the alcohol. After finishing the bottle, he is drunk and in his stupor has sex with the woman and kills the goat and eats some of the meat.

In the Theravada story (as in perhaps the Zen), the point is that any or all of the other precepts could be violated when mindfulness is gone, especially under intoxication.
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Re: Zen stories

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Jan 17, 2010 5:06 pm

Here is a Zen story for the environmentalists:

Two monks were sent to a new monastery. As they walked up the hill to the monastery they noticed a creek coming down the hill. In this creek they saw two small pieces of vegetables going down the creek.

One of the monks said, "the monks at this monastery waste food. Let us not reside here. We will look for a different monastery."

As they started to walk down the monastery, the earth started to shake and quake. They heard a loud commotion. They turned around and looked up the hill. They saw hundreds of monks running down the hill to chase the two small vegetables that accidentally fell into the creek.

=================================================

I originally heard that story from Samu Sunim during a Zen retreat in Toronto, Canada. At that monastery the policy was to eat all of your food and then pour your green tea onto the plate to clean up every last crumb of food. At first I thought this was kind of extreme, but then upon reflection liked the environmental aspect to it and it is very fitting with the Dharma and way of the Bodhisattva.
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Re: Zen stories

Postby ronnewmexico » Sun Jan 17, 2010 8:16 pm

Here's my story(though not Zen or even Buddhist necessarily)...for another day.. Not to steal the original posters thread but to add(abeit perhaps in a poorly written form) a bit of context on Zen stories, as a layperson with little understanding of such things sees them....

The story I have written(the second part) is qualified as being the product of a theft by a ignoble thief with baser instincts. The moral dillema is the reading of the story not the initial story itself, by monks. To read, not read, or upon reading how to act. And the product of such actions to entertain the written story itself. Such a story may perhaps be related to a lifestory itself.....


The quote:
"So now dear readers is the story, the real story....
See, the first monk, knowing the story to be a stolen story, the product of stealing; since he is a monk he could not read the story, as it violated his vows related to nonstealing. The second monk, seeing spiritual value(perhaps) read the story,despite his vows, and after reading performed a Vajrasattava mantra and ceremony to alleviate the suffering of the stealer of the story, and perhaps the monks consequential suffering. The third monk read the story and did nothing at all considering that spiritual things of such a nature cannot actually be stolen(and he found the story not very interesting) . The master he drank a bottle of wine and told no single person to do anything. He however did not appear to be drunk.

Now who exactly is it that is drunk? I don't claim to know.....perhaps you do? Or is that perhaps another story for another day?"

That is a quote from my earlier post


There are three types of people or people who hold particular views on life expressed(not to state these are the only views possible).
The first monk represents those that hold to inherant goodness and badness of things and exclude things bad.
The second monk represents those seeing spiritual in all things but considers the necessity of remedial action to provide beneficial effect.
The third monk discriminates the spiritual and nonspiritual and bases his decisions on what interests and not on this basis.
And the master.... who drank wine but did not become drunk. Master are considered usually expressing a enlightened view.

The interpretation:
The being drunk is the intoxication of life, life's delusion. A master may inbibe in life's delusion but not be drunk. This explains drinking but not being drunk by appearence.
The only person that may be considered drunk in any possibility depending upon what has been written(in the second part) is...... the writer.
Who as a imbiber in life and not a master is certainly quite drunk and delusional. The delusion of cause and effect in the manner we perceive it(as in the deaths just recently of 200k or so in Haiti to include probably at least 50k children) is characteristic of a drunken delusional person. So all cause and effects are causes and effects written with a drunken hand. These things occur because of our delusion of self and other generation through ignorance(the drink) and that is another issue. So all life stories are drunken delusional life stories(of the unenlightened).

See; to my little experience....I have worked for no pay as a handyman(Fixitupper) at a Zendo for about nine months many years ago. A Zendo which coincidentally no longer exists in the main because the head abbot had sexual dilliances with many of his star pupils. From this I draw my very little laypersons experience in this thing(which of course may be taken with a grain of salt) ...

A Zen story is not usually propogated to the masses.

They are individual stories aimed at a very particular audience at a particular place and time with very individual focus by a master of Zen. A enlightened person.

So I have produced(in the second part) a hint at the individual nature of Zen stories to make it relevent. MY second story can be taken as a very real decision to be made in very real terms by a monk(or anyone for that matter)....should I read the product of stealing, (participate in that derived from bad means), right here and now. The internet is after all not a thing seperate from the real world but a real part of the real world with compassion and or harm produced by our actions.

I am certainly no master but have added a bit of context to this thread abeit from the point of view of a layperson with experience only of being a handyman at a Zendo which no longer exists in the main due to sexual impriority. That second story is personally aimed for immediate result. Which to my experience are most Zen stories from my point of view.

So I add possible context to Zen stories. Zen adherants of intelligence and training feel free to intercede and call what I have written crap. It may certainly be so.

Just to add... in the main if this doesn't make sense just disregard. If it does, and you like my additions to this thread...Enjoy

My appologies to the initiator of the thead if it is considered to be hijacked. That is not my intent. A funny things is perhaps this second post is but another story as well. But I may be considered to have a rather "dry" sense of humor. How ironic is sometimes irony found to be? Tragedies are often found to be...quite tragic....and on and on!! Enjoy..or not.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Zen stories

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Jan 18, 2010 12:17 am

ronnewmexico wrote:My appologies to the initiator of the thead if it is considered to be hijacked. That is not my intent. A funny things is perhaps this second post is but another story as well. But I may be considered to have a rather "dry" sense of humor. How ironic is sometimes irony found to be? Tragedies are often found to be...quite tragic....and on and on!! Enjoy..or not.


Hi Ron,

Not at all. This thread is meant for anyone to post any Zen stories that they have heard and like. :smile:
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Re: Zen stories

Postby ronnewmexico » Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:27 am

Well thank youi DAvid Snyder! Your attitude and disposition on this board speaks of a attitude and dispostion that I suspect is found everywhere you go...and that is one with the appearence of congeniality and a even good natured consideration of all that appears before you.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Zen stories

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Jan 22, 2010 5:23 am

The Chess Game:

There is one Zen story that includes the game of chess. A Zen master instructed a beginning student to play chess with one of the senior students. Then he told them that the loser would be killed. The student played chess with more concentration devoted to the game than he had ever done before in his life. As he nervously played and shaked his pieces, sweat started to pour off his forehead and all over. He was playing for his life, literally.

Then he started winning, his position was very good. And then he started to have compassion for his opponent, not wanting him to be killed, so he purposely made some blunders. The game was a test and no one was killed. The point of the story is that full concentration is needed in every facet of life to succeed and the importance of compassion. Today modern athletes often evoke this Zen attitude, attempting to feel that they will literally die if they do not make the next shot or score, etc.

http://www.d-chess.com/thezenofchess
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Re: Zen stories

Postby Huifeng » Fri Jan 22, 2010 7:28 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
I originally heard that story from Samu Sunim during a Zen retreat in Toronto, Canada. At that monastery the policy was to eat all of your food and then pour your green tea onto the plate to clean up every last crumb of food. At first I thought this was kind of extreme, but then upon reflection liked the environmental aspect to it and it is very fitting with the Dharma and way of the Bodhisattva.


There are a couple of ways of doing it, but basically after eating the rice and main veges, one leaves a choice piece of leafy greens on the plate. Then, using the water from the soup, one uses the leafy vege chunk to wash the plates / bowls. If they have water / tea, then use that to follow up with. Ideally, one can dry the bowl, and then put it away. Right at your table.

At the Buddhist college where I studied, if you left any little on the plate, after the meal, the dean of student affairs would ask you - "Why didn't you eat all your food?!"
At my main monastery, the little food waste we do have is fed to local animals.

The first of the meal time contemplations is:
計功多少 量彼來處
"Consider the amount of effort [in this meal], and weight up it's sources."

Or, in more classical Chinese:
飲水思源
When drinking water, think of the source.
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Re: Zen stories

Postby Luke » Fri Jan 22, 2010 3:08 pm

Huifeng wrote:There are a couple of ways of doing it, but basically after eating the rice and main veges, one leaves a choice piece of leafy greens on the plate. Then, using the water from the soup, one uses the leafy vege chunk to wash the plates / bowls. If they have water / tea, then use that to follow up with. Ideally, one can dry the bowl, and then put it away. Right at your table.

At the Buddhist college where I studied, if you left any little on the plate, after the meal, the dean of student affairs would ask you - "Why didn't you eat all your food?!"
At my main monastery, the little food waste we do have is fed to local animals.

This is the most "Zen" thing I've read in a long time. Simple, ethical actions performed perfectly demonstrate a great deal of wisdom and compassion. I think the beautiful outer simplicity of Zen is the reason that so many people love it.

ronnewmexico wrote:Here's a story but it may not be Zen(I don't know). I have performed work of volunteer nature in many places. In these places I have stolen many a thing. One of these places was a Zendo, another was a Tibetan Buddhist temple. I don't recall from where I have stolen this or even if I have stolen it at large. I do not advocate for stealing and admittedly are suffering karmic effect from such stealings, to include having my posessions stolen. But since I give little value to these things called posessions, it is of no matter. That payment, I will gladly make, (but that is a aside). I am after all a thief of the most basest sort.

Ron,

One of the best ways to atone for stealing is by giving donations to sanghas and to those you stole from. I wish you luck with your efforts to purify the bad karma you created for yourself.

:buddha1:
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Re: Zen stories

Postby ronnewmexico » Fri Jan 22, 2010 6:06 pm

Luke

I give small donations to very many places, as I have but a small income.

Karmic consequences of stealing the spiritual....I don't give a fig. The consequences are of a material sort, and the material things do not simply matter. I was born and will die those are two more painful occurances than anything that transpires inbetween. And the cause of my birth and death...self created.

I no longer apply the salve of remedial practices. They work well and are most efficient, but all my pain and suffering is nothing compared to those that hold these things to be real. So when I do Vajrasattava mantra or KIlli Kaliaya mantra or related Sadhana ceremony....I do it for others not me. I give not a fig of concern for what happens to me. All Dharma protectors, Buddhas and such, have spirit followers of a sort, who are not realized, but conduct themeselves accompaning such beings. Such beings as Buddhas are elicited with Sadahana performance. The Buddhas care not a whit as well, but the spirit followers of the Buddhas their accompaniment..... I do it for them as well...they become sad if the Sadhanas are not followed or at very least the mantra is not sung when a empowerment is confered and held.

I go sing dharma songs/mantra in the wildernesses to spirit beings who reside there in summer time....this is more important than any consequence I suffer from my stealing. I have not a whit of accomplisment and am but a layperson with a small practice but I care nothing about consequences of this sort. My legs arms, sight, hearing, all these things will be stolen from me and I will not be able to do that thing....and that will be quite sad but not for me....I care not a whit.

So that may seem quite a crazy thing I say and do ...and it is. But I don't give a fig about it all.

IN better times these things would be freely given....they are not in this present time, so I must steal.
Effect of stealing I still suffer.....I care not a whit. All will be stolen from me in the end....but there is nothing I own ever at all as well.

So steal away self.....steal away. I will follow it no longer. That's my opinion on stealing.
MY dualistic thought that is my enemy what drives this thing.....that I will remedy, not cause and effect.

As a aside there are those in the American Shaministic traditions that hold that a being there is, of size beyond comprehension, and we essentially are part of this being. This being eats. It eats aspects of our awareness that which it cannot in itself create. Our lives they essentially set the stage for the creation of this product, this being eats.
What it eats is the energy of our awarenesses displayed as emotional states. Our fears, our angers, our romantic loves and on and on.
Such creature could not exist, I know, as inherantly existant thing, but even some rare Buddhist tales of a sort I have heard of, they speak of a time long long ago inhabited by perhaps a similiar thing. If such is nevertheless present.... does it notice of 6 Billion peoples one it is that is not doing that thing? Is not creating that thing as that one believes that which generates this thing.... is nonexistant. Sometimes in a daydream of sorts I wonder about things like that.

No Luke I will apply no remedy. Make a effigy of sorts of me. Call it ronnewmexico, and fill that effigy with those things...doubt regret, fear anger emotional love, and perhaps if that was done this greater being it would not notice....one of its own, is gone..... far gone, and will not return.
If such thing is considered quite external.

That it seems is also a story of sorts for your enjoyment.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Zen stories

Postby Luke » Fri Jan 22, 2010 7:20 pm

Ron,

It's possible that I simply misunderstood you. I thought you meant that you had stolen money or statues or something physical from some sanghas, but as I re-read your post, I think that you may have not meant things literally. If I misunderstood you, I apologize.

Anyway, that's great that you care about other beings more than you care about yourself. Some of your thoughts remind me of parts of the Bodhisattvacharyavatara:

"All my bodies I offer for eternity
To you, the Triumphant and to your spiritual offspring.
Supreme Beings, please fully accept me.
Respectfully, I shall serve as your attendant."

(Chapter 2, verse 8)

"Having given this body to all those with limited bodies
To do with as they like,
It’s up to them to do what they want:
Let them kill it, revile it, always beat it, or whatever."

(Chapter 3, verse 12)
http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/x/nav ... 05749.html

One of the reasons that I enjoy practicing tonglen so much is that I can benefit so many other beings by doing it. Once when I was quite distraught after I had found out that a student at the school where I teach had committed suicide by jumping off the balcony of an apartment building after a girl he liked had refused to go out with him, I asked my lama what I could do for this dead student's spirit, and his answer was that I should practice tonglen.

Take care,

Luke

(My apologies to people for going off-topic, but I felt that I needed to answer Ron.)
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Re: Zen stories

Postby ronnewmexico » Fri Jan 22, 2010 8:12 pm

No Luke you now misinterpret me to a great degree, undoubtably due to my deficiencies in this matter.

I have not a shread of Bodhisttava within me, and never have I taken, nor expect to take, that vow(though it is a great vow indeed). And Tonglen I do not perform, though great practice it is, and may have been slightly performed in a earlier day(though just minorly and with great error).

As a personal note, I consider my compassion to be a part of what I find in my awareness. So there is not a bit to it that talks of others more than I. Equal certainly, and not apart, but not by desire but by the ways things are. I am truly sorry if I give any impression that I am in any manner accomplished or holding a great view such as bodhisttava is. I am certainly not. As things go, I am slightly more compassionate than when I entered this life it seems, but that is in the main due to circumstance not any altruistic intent I hold.

If nothing matters in the sense I find it, I can create my own reality to a degree, and this includes singing mantra to wilderness spirits, and other things. If things present at my passing that some external being(though of noninherant existant quality) does exist, I wonder perhaps, in my daydream, if that being will, when it injests what is thought to be me.....will it injest emptiness and awareness notions instead. Will it perceive my running towards it, instead of away, as most would do I suppose, and think perhaps maybe just maybe, this being may contain some poision that will end this thing it calls me. And would that being not then run away?
And when I find this being and it does injest what it thiinks to be these fears angers and all....will it not find what I find to be, emptiness encompassing its very being and though such poison pill be small(my understanding)....it does end this being great? And then end it all? This chain this chain of delusion that has us and it assumeing things are as we think they are?
It is not that I want to be eaten or end such a thing as others being eaten(in my daydream), but it seems if nothing of me matters what better thing is there to do....sortof like having a cup of tea on a cold snowy winter day.

David the OP is easy and cares little about staying on topic in his threads I assume, so not to worry.

But in all seriousness, I simply am very distraught at any notion I hold any view that puts others before me. I wish such a post had never been written, and am very discouraged to think I put forth such a notion. It is simply completely off base. Others many others hold that view, and great one it is. I am truthful when I say I am the basest of thief. I am very very bad at this thing called communication at times. And for that I appologize. I give the wrong impression.

To add....I have never read that before I think, and thank you for providing it...the Bodhisattvacharyavatara: I have read similiar things in some other places I think. I am not trying to be that way, it seems simply a consequence of circumstances. If it is considered a spiritual way to be..perhaps I should throw it away, as I am but the smallest of persons with the littest of simple practices. But that leaves me where I am anyway, as that anyway....that uncaring thing. So it perhaps could be better versed and accused......you just don't care do you?
Yes I would admittedly reply, taking any notion of the spiritual quite away from me and that thing I consider to be me. Which I now certainly endeavor to do, and being perfectly honest state....I have no such spiritual qualities .

Luckily I can copy and paste, as I certainly can't spell it.
Bodhisattvacharyavatara: geeze louise....that's a mouthful.

Reading it there is a difference I'd suppose....I give nothing as there is nothing to give, what I could presume to give is already given. Ready for the taking are all those things I'd suppose, as trying to grab water with your open hands is quite futile, so would be trying to give water with open hands be. So I don't claim in the slightest to be doing that thing. For others such as this author described, greater than me...far greater then I would ever suppose to be. Any comparison being revolting to me.

Maybe in some future life perhaps. If my daydream did prove in some manner to be true.....then the daydream would prove to be no more, I expect but not a shread of giving to it on my part at all.
Consequence, cause and effect is all. It could not be denied.

The daydream is a free story though perhaps not Zen. So David I suspect will not mind in the slightest.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Zen stories

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Jan 23, 2010 11:23 pm

Huifeng wrote:At the Buddhist college where I studied, if you left any little on the plate, after the meal, the dean of student affairs would ask you - "Why didn't you eat all your food?!"
At my main monastery, the little food waste we do have is fed to local animals.


At the Zen monastery where I did that retreat I heard one of the nuns come up to a person and say, "we don't waste food here." The guy was finished eating and had about two crumbs on his plate. He quickly learned the protocol.
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Re: Zen stories

Postby Annapurna » Sun Jan 24, 2010 1:50 pm

Huifeng wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote:
I originally heard that story from Samu Sunim during a Zen retreat in Toronto, Canada. At that monastery the policy was to eat all of your food and then pour your green tea onto the plate to clean up every last crumb of food. At first I thought this was kind of extreme, but then upon reflection liked the environmental aspect to it and it is very fitting with the Dharma and way of the Bodhisattva.


There are a couple of ways of doing it, but basically after eating the rice and main veges, one leaves a choice piece of leafy greens on the plate. Then, using the water from the soup, one uses the leafy vege chunk to wash the plates / bowls. If they have water / tea, then use that to follow up with. Ideally, one can dry the bowl, and then put it away. Right at your table.

At the Buddhist college where I studied, if you left any little on the plate, after the meal, the dean of student affairs would ask you - "Why didn't you eat all your food?!"
At my main monastery, the little food waste we do have is fed to local animals.

The first of the meal time contemplations is:
計功多少 量彼來處
"Consider the amount of effort [in this meal], and weight up it's sources."

Or, in more classical Chinese:
飲水思源
When drinking water, think of the source.



Very interesting, David and Huifeng.

I now understand myself better. I can't leave any food, or breadcrumbs on a plate, and eat everything that is on it. I put my finger on it, and if it sticks, fine.

I usually wipe up all rests with bread etc. It has caused people to comment upon it.

I sometimes see how people don't eat all the meat off the bones, especially with chicken. That's hard to see for me.

Would one bring that with him from a former life?

When drinking water, think of the source


That's great.
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Re: Zen stories

Postby Luke » Sun Jan 24, 2010 4:16 pm

I've always liked the ancient Zen master Ikkyu.

Once Ikkyu was invited to a banquet by wealthy patrons. Ikkyu arrived there clad in his usual beggarly robes. The wealthy host, unable to place him drove him away. Ikkyu who then went home clad his body in his ceremonial robe of purple brocade and returned to the patron's place.

Ikkyu was received with great respect this time and shown into the banquet room. Inside the room, Ikkyu removed his grand robe, placed it on the cushion and left the place telling : "I guess you invited the robe as you turned me out a little while ago".


I once read another story about him which basically went as follows.

A nobleman visits Ikkyu and asks him to write something which contains the highest level of wisdom in it. Ikkyu sits down with his inkbrush and writes the character for "attention" on a piece of paper. The nobleman asks Ikkyu to please write something more, so Ikkyu writes, "Attention. Attention." The man, starting to become a little agitated, asks Ikkyu again to write something more, so Ikkyu writes, "Attention. Attention. Attention."

Now the man really loses his temper and yells at Ikkyu, "What does the word 'attention' mean anyway?!"

Ikkyu replies softly, "Attention means attention."
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Re: Zen stories

Postby ronnewmexico » Sun Jan 24, 2010 7:30 pm

I draw two interpretations from the first story....a absolutist or theist view and a even flavor view.

In the first a theist interprets it as taking people as they are. The poor as well as the rich, a Joseph in the manger story. No one would give that family a decent place to stay that night(which is a misread of accomodations in that part of the world 2k years ago) but nevertheless. Christian fundametal theism however always favoring the family as opposed to the individual. But the same theme. Some, the wise men recognized this homeless family member to be a great individual. The child in Christian thought being the most potential and worthy of veneration by such wise men, speaking perhaps of a inner psychiological issue of retention of family line perhaps. It is always for or of the children not us, in that way of thinking but that is a aside. So it could be interpreted that way.

The second interpretation would have the teacher useing the clothes as a metaphore to describe what is most important to teachers of the dharma, the dharma itself. The mundane or close to us being perhaps most important as opposed to the intellectual understanding of things(the periphery). The intellectual understanding and displayal, considered being the most important thing of greatest status to mundane individuals, but the intellectual being considered of little importance to the teacher. The removing of the cloak would be the intellectual being peripheral or outer to the inner the (considered mundane or commonplace) the real understanding grasped from meditational means which all may employ rich poor learned unlearned. Japanese Zen seemingly has a history of the highest teachings not being accessible to the poor and unlearned but only to the rich and well learned( and probably all lineages do). A form of Buddhism evolved in Japan to counter that situation years ago. The host invited not the dharma but the periphery of the dharma to the feast. That which is most obvious but perhaps misleading.

Meditation all can do and the real all can do.....this is a great teacher as evidenced by his holding that view despite his coming from a history of exclusion and such. He rose above that nonsense but that is a aside.

The second.....the teacher is asked to write what encompasses the greatest wisdom. Attention is simply this thing. That is the teachers view. Why, is conjecture....... my guess would be, to endeavor any wisdom firstly attention is necessary. Without such all is just words. Attention is clearly lacking seeing the noble yelling. The teacher responds whispering. The teacher is aware of the yelling, the emotional state, and clearly his response balances that. The noble obviously is not. So several lessons..

Attention is the greatest wisdom(producer?)
All things of the emotions lack substance(the emotional need not be responded to with emotion but perhaps with balancing effect)
Lack of attention(the noble) fosters lack of awareness and wisdom

So that's my take as a uneducated layperson with little understanding. So feel free to take it with a grain of salt or knowing my writings....do not read it at all.

As a aside on retreat in a retreat house of sorts I have had occasion years ago, to sit and listen as I did house chores, to benefactors, who were planning the visit of a great lineage holder. It was to my amusement quite pragmatic in which they applied things as status and monies given, to who was invited to certain close dinners and contacts, not available to the general public. When eventually it became time to sit down and eat at the same table with such benefactors, I felt indeed like it was a plate of crap I was holding in my hands, and not a plate of the finest foods... such seemed the response to my sitting at this same table with those fine peoples, odious seemed the response to such a notion that I would be doing such a thing. If they could have held their noses I think they certainly would have. To my take they had not integrated even the first of the two responses to the first story. Which by my take left me to conclude they were not even as the theist, relgiously inclined, seemed to be. A view I normally consider inferior in that context of heirarchy. Ever see peoples such as these in a supermarket or such.....quite often they will reluctantly if at all, acknowledge your presence. The theists equilivent..... much as I consider their things not well thought out....invariably if you are a member of their group each and every one will greet you with open arms a handshake in that situation.

And internet seems not much different....the cloak of wisdom is the only one acknowledged and confirmed. And bodhisttava other than in a cerebral sense(dedicating prayers good will and such) forget about it. Ever notice the most heinous dispicable abusive peoples on the internet put addons to their names such as....with compassion, or with love?

It seems such things are to a extent ingrained by mechanism into all religions to my observation. So no particular slight intended to Buddhists, the first interpretation of the first story is still only a partial read by my take. Though taking the second interpretation and not also the first cannot seemingly be done.


A lineage holder is in town and certain things mysteriously disappear from the temple at certain times and then mysteriously return the next day..... Yes dear reader, it may be certain ceremonies are being performed and you and others are not seemingly being asked what empowerments you hold to see if you may participate of if you want to participate No it seems that is not the issue.

Sad to say. Every person for themselves at this time and place in human things with a couple of rare exceptions. Degeneracy it is called. Which is why, relatedly, compassion, real compassion not found in a book or seperate from a person, is by my take the only viable measure of spiritual progression. Of what worth is the knowing of the nuances of types of bodhisttavic action, buddha nature, and the differentiation by school of thought, the absolute definition of nirvana, the quotation of learned scholors and masters, the performance of the greatest of empowerments, the continual exercise of the most important sadahanna, the continual recital of prayer or mantra, even the memorization of each and every sutra or sutta....if one does not even know enought to treat others with respect when situations call for such respect, or to say...hello to you fellow sanga member!! at a supermarket. Seems pretty worthless to me and I'd suppose such will serve little in the bardo to see what is seen as illusionary. Even theists will be better served by their faith is my guess. Most,(certainly not all) seem to grasp the first story in the first interpretation. Buddhists(certainly not all)....seem to not grasp the first interpretation as much as the second. Which means their second is faulted and by my take....quite lifeless and dead. A dead thing they carrry around their neck which follows them throughout what seems like eternity....intellectual understanding, without a shred of wisdom attached to it. A formless realm with no cognition available for what seems a eternity may be such a creatures descibed fate. All but the me which allows the intellectual but reinforceing the me; never disappearing quite all.

Just my personal opinion and not a person who claims any Buddhism, though I have stolen much from Buddhism,and what I have stolen may be considered quite useless. So again...take it with a grain of salt. And to state I hold quite a bias on this thing, though it is not a theist Buddhist nor secular bias. Zen stories.....I feel they should be real, right here and now, even those that are not Zen stories.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Zen stories

Postby Huifeng » Mon Jan 25, 2010 3:25 am

Luke wrote:I've always liked the ancient Zen master Ikkyu.

Once Ikkyu was invited to a banquet by wealthy patrons. Ikkyu arrived there clad in his usual beggarly robes. The wealthy host, unable to place him drove him away. Ikkyu who then went home clad his body in his ceremonial robe of purple brocade and returned to the patron's place.

Ikkyu was received with great respect this time and shown into the banquet room. Inside the room, Ikkyu removed his grand robe, placed it on the cushion and left the place telling : "I guess you invited the robe as you turned me out a little while ago".




Actually, rather than this story coming from Ikkyu (~~ 14th century), the original comes from Kasmir in about the first century BCE. Probably a few dozen different teachers have been accredited with this story over the last two thousand years.
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Re: Zen stories

Postby Luke » Mon Jan 25, 2010 9:24 pm

Huifeng wrote:Actually, rather than this story coming from Ikkyu (~~ 14th century), the original comes from Kasmir in about the first century BCE. Probably a few dozen different teachers have been accredited with this story over the last two thousand years.

Thanks for the info, Ven. Huifeng. I think that many stories which have become known as "Zen" stories over the past half century might actually have come from other sources besides actual Zen masters.

A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor's cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. "It's overflowing! No more will go in!" the professor blurted. "You are like this cup," the master replied, "How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup."


Is this story about the teacher pouring the tea into his student's cup until it overflows actually a Zen story? Or did that come from somewhere else as well?
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