Posts Tagged ‘Zen’

Zen Painting by Osho

Posted: September 5, 2014 in Short Stories

A Zen master was making a painting, and he had his chief disciple sit by his side to tell him when the painting was perfect. The disciple was worried and the master was also worried, because the disciple had never seen the master do anything imperfect. But that day things started going wrong. The master tried, and the more he tried, the more it was a mess….

In Japan or in China, the whole art of calligraphy is done on rice paper, on a certain paper, a very sensitive paper, very fragile. If you hesitate a little, for centuries it can be known where the calligrapher hesitated – because more ink spreads into the rice paper and makes it a mess. It is very difficult to deceive on rice paper. You have to go on flowing; you are not to hesitate. Even for a single moment. split moment, if you hesitate – what to do? – missed, already missed. And one who has a keen eye will immediately say, “It is not a Zen painting at all” – because a Zen painting has to be a spontaneous painting, flowing.


Chinese Tea by Liu Tong

Posted: July 28, 2013 in Book Notes
  • [The Chinese character of tea “茶”] suggests the harmony between human being and nature.
  • Tea helped people to  be undisturbed by worldly worries and uplifted from vulgarities, so it was conducive to virtue cultivation… While drinking tea, one should avoid vulgar talk, and should study metaphysics and seek truth, purify thoughts and elevate mind.
  • Picking decides the grades of the leaves, while frying decides their color, shape, and taste.
  • Zen comes from Sanskrit, meaning heart cultivation and thought purification.
  • Three Virtues
    • First, tea keeps people awake while sitting Zen at night.
    • Second, it helps people digest while full.
    • Last, it gives people a serene heart without desires.

This food is a gift of the whole universe, the earth, the sky and much mindful work.

May we eat in mindfulness so as to be worthy of it.

May we transform our unskillful states of mind and learn to eat in moderation.

May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness.

May we accept this food to realize the path of understanding and love.

My friend Andre Talbot writes, “The five eating contemplations now hang on my refrigerator door as a constant reminder to be grateful of the efforts and work that it took for this food to make it to my table. They remind me to chew my food slowly and mindfully (to allow for healthy digestion), to really enjoy the tastes and sensations, and to be fully awake and present in each moment of my life.”

What is Zen?


  • Not reliant on written word
  • A special transmission separate from the scriptures
  • Direct pointing at one’s mind, seeing one’s nature, becoming the Buddha

Fish forget that they live in lakes and rivers; people forget that they live in the magic of the Dao. – Confucius

  • If one engages in self-cultivation with the desire to sever the roots of defilement and erroneous thinking, it is not only to attain the tranquil realm of true emptiness which involves no-thought, no-idea, no-mind, no-self, etc.; it is also in pursuit of the wonderful wisdom that is experienced in and grows from a way of life that is different from the ordinary. In that realm, the whole world is seen from one perspective, and there are no dichotomies; it is the true world where the self and others, as well as good and evil, are all transcended.
  • Don’t get mired in the worlds of yesterday and tomorrow. Instead, live in the world of today. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, experience the beautiful things around you at that moment.
    • Life is but a breath.
    • When you can see the beauty and goodness in everything around you, you have entered the gates of Zen.
  • Heaven and Hell aren’t places that suddenly appear after death. They exist here and now. Good and evil involve just a single instant of thought, and the gates of Heaven and Hell are ready to open for you at any time.
  • When you go point out other people’s mistakes, the real error may very well be hidden in your own misconceptions.
  • The truth and words are unrelated.
    • The truth can be compared to the moon. And words can be compared to a finger. I can use my finger to point out the moon, but my finger is not the moon, and you don’t need my finger to see the moon.
    • Language is merely a tool for pointing out the truth, a mean to help us attain enlightenment. Whoever insists on language sacrifices the truth and will be confused forever.
    • Anytime we use words to explain something, there will be deficiencies. That which is asked about is itself the most complete answer.
    • If a rock is thrown at a dog, the dog will go after the rock. If a rock is thrown at a lion, the lion will go after the person who threw it. When investigating the language of Zen, you should be like lion and not the dog.
      • The words of a person of Zen are just pointers, topics that lead to a deeper level of experience, so when encountering the language of Zen, don’t pursue simply the meanings of the words themselves.
  • If you had one hundred sheep and one of them lost its way, wouldn’t you immediately go in search of the lost one, abandoning the other 99 in the open fields? It is important to help those who need help the most.
  • In practicing Zen, we should be like the mute, gaining insights yet feeling it not worthwhile to discuss them with others. The worst thing a person can do is emulate a parrot and go around teaching others about one’s merely superficial understanding of Zen.
  • Don’t project  yourself on things you come into contact with, and don’t differentiate between yourself and other things, because so-called  subjectivity and objectivity do not exist. The domain of wisdom is in understanding that there is no self, there is no other, and everything is the way it is.
  • Consistency between actions and words is the foundation of self-cultivation.
  • Heaven looks on all beings just the same and won’t help anyone in particular. The one who can help you is yourself.
  • Everything has its place in nature.
  • Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t worry about the future. Experience and cherish the moment. Happiness is acting according to circumstances, whatever they may be.
    • While we live, we should enjoy the mystery and beauty that are life, rather than worrying about what comes after death. Live today without worrying about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have its own worries.
  • When the wind blows, the bamboo bends; when the wind is gone, the bamboo makes no sound. A wild goose crosses a wintry lake, and when it departs, the lake leaves no trace. When something happens, confront it with your original nature. When it’s over, empty your mind of it.
    • All you have to do is respond in a direct, resolute way to any situation, and you will become that situation, and that situation become you.
  • The perfect person’s mind is like a mirror: neither taking nor welcoming, it responds but doesn’t store. So, when it is time to be a general, you should be a general, and when it is time to be a monk, be a monk.
    • If your mind is torn by two conflicting desires, the contradiction will destroy your mind’s unity and tranquility. Just remember, when you should grab something, grab it; when you should let go, let go.
  • Rich and poor are not functions of how much money we have, but rather, of whether or not we are content with what we have.
  • Meet the changes by not changing, for the number of ways to change is limited, while the number of ways to stay the same is infinite.
  • The same pat answer isn’t necessarily true in all situations. The truth of life is always moving, always changing.
  • It is not until the external light is extinguished that our internal light shines bright. It is not until our crutch is discarded that we can realize our latent potential.
  • …we can attain this new life not through thought, but through direct insight.
  • The most precious thing there is resides inside you – it is yourself. In pursuing external objects, we lose the self.

The many have one essence, and the one has many manifestations.

  • What other people have come to understand intuitively can never become yours unless you come to understand it through your own effort.
  • 僧问:“祖意教意是同是别?” 师曰:“鸡寒上树,鸭寒入水。”
    • Everyone has a different way of arriving at the same destination.
    • There is not just one path, and not everyone is fit to travel the same path. By limiting yourself to a certain path, you may actually lead yourself astray.
  • Socrates said that if people know what they should do, they will do it. But he underestimated people’s ability to fail themselves. Everyone knows what they should do, but how many people actually do it?
  • Someone asked a Zen Master, “How do you practice Zen?” The master said, “When you are hungry, eat; when you are tired, sleep.” “Isn’t that what everyone does anyway?” The master replied, “No, No. Most people entertain a thousand desires when they eat and scheme over a thousand plans (untie a thousand knots) when they sleep.”
  • Any time and any place are always the best time and the best place. All you have to do is experience things with an attentive mind.
    • Seize the moment; experience the present; don’t let anything slip by.
  • No teacher can instill a student with anything; but he can help that student understand everything in the student’s own mind.
  • Everything in the world is different from everything else. Therefore, there can never be one certain, unfailing standard. Standards change with people.
  • Movement was originally easy, but we have been shackled by so many worldly rules and restrictions that it is sometimes difficult to take even a single step.
  • A man of Dao is of no-mind; how can he do wrong? By not getting mired in appearances and by following our original nature, we can do no wrong.
  • Only by assimilating yourself with nature and sincerely forgetting the self can you be one with the truth.
  • Flowers are quick to wither, yet the cycle will always remain. Water may move, but the surface of the stream will never change. The meaning of life lies in the process of living – change is the only thing that never changes.
  • You don’t need to travel to some illusory world to find the principles of life; just pay attention to the details of life and experience them. When you begin to doubt, an answer is most likely found where the question begins.
  • We often discover a certain joy in hardship after the hardship is over. If we can discover it while it is happening, then summer will have its goodness and winter will have its wonders.
  • The world and I live together, the myriad things and I are one.  Although the myriad things have innumerable manifestations, they are really of one body.

Zen teachings do not incorporate any practices of belief within them. In fact, you could not get a religion further from beliefs than Zen. As a meditator, if a belief is encountered within oneself, it is simply to be recognized for what it is – a belief – but not followed. There is no question of pushing beliefs away as terrible things, but neither are they to be justified and shored up to be convictions. Then they come and go within the mind, and one’s life is not based upon them. If one places any importance on beliefs they distort reality and cut off the drive to realize truth within oneself.

Trust, however, is a different thing altogether and very important. It is necessary, for example, to trust in the teachings and the path, otherwise they could not be followed.

  • We are all the instruments of nature’s cycle of life and death, whether we like it or not.
    • It is recognized that merely by being alive and breathing, or placing one’s foot upon the ground, one causes countless beings to perish.

There is nothing special about what I do each day;
I only keep myself in harmony with it,
Everywhere I neither accept nor reject anything.
Nor here do I confirm or refute a thing.
Why do people say that red and purple differ?
There’s not a speck of dust on the blue mountain.
Supernatural power and wonder-making works
Are but fetch water and the gathering of wood.

  • The more love you give, the more love you get. The more you share good fortune with others, the more you have for yourself.

The Spider’s Silk

Posted: December 5, 2011 in Short Stories

Once upon a time a very wicked man died and ended up in Hell. As he was brought before King Yama, (the Lord of Hell in Buddhism), he pleaded to the King, “I am asking your Majesty to be merciful because I always recited Namo Amitabha Buddha.” pleaded the wicked man.

“Can you give me a description of any good deed that you had done on Earth?” asked King Yama. “If you can, then I will be more than willing to let you go to Heaven instead of staying here.”

The wicked man thought for a long time and said, “I recall I saved the life of a spider. A bird flew into my garden and destroyed a spider web, and I chased the bird away.”

“OK, I will ask my Officers to verify what you say.” said King Yama. So he sent two Hell Officers off to look for the spider whom the wicked man said he had saved.

After spending some time looking for the spider, the two Officers finally located her in the Heavenly Garden, serving as the Goddess of Silk under Emperor Sakra’ s (the King of Thirty Three Heavens in Buddhism) command.

“Yes, it is true that he saved my life,” the Goddess of Silk told King Yama’s Officers. “I am very grateful for this and therefore I am willing to help him get out of Hell.”

“How would you do it?” asked the Officers.

“I will spin a long fine piece of silk and drop it from Heaven to Hell. Then he can hold on to it and I will lift him to Heaven. There is one condition: My silk looked thin, but very strong. He must have faith in it before he can be lifted to Heaven.”

The scheme was approved by both Emperor Sakra and King Yama. A long thin piece of silk was produced by the Goddess and dropped all the way from Heaven to Hell. The man held on the silk and the Spider Goddess started to lift him out. Everything seemed to work well until …

As the wicked man was being lifted out of Hell, he looked down and found hundreds and hundreds of Hell residents also held on to the piece of silk and tried to get out of Hell into Heaven. The weight of all those people was stretching the spider silk tremendously. Suddenly, a thought came to his mind, “Can I trust this thin piece of silk to hold so many people? If I cut the other Hell residents loose, this piece of silk need not bear so much weight and I am sure that I can to go to Heaven safely!” And he remembered he had a knife in his pocket.

He tried to reach his pocket to find his knife, but as he took his hand off the piece of silk, he fell back into Hell. Thus, while the other residents reached Heaven safely, he was unable to get out. The Goddess of Silk sighed and told the two Hell Officers, “Well. My piece of silk is very strong but elastic. It will not break no matter how many Hell residents held on to it. He did not have faith in it and did not want anybody else come to Heaven. There is little else I can do to bring him out.”

Soliloquy of the Frogs

Posted: December 5, 2011 in Short Stories

In the lush bushes beside a small pond there lived a family of frogs.

♫ Heaven is there for frogs, and earth is there for frogs – so that we have room in which to live. ♫


♫ Water is there for frogs, and the air is there for frogs. ♫


♫ The bugs in the air are there for frogs, and the fruit on the ground is there for frogs. ♫


“Ahh snake! That was scary. The poor little guy. So are snakes there for frogs too?”

“Of course! Snakes are there for us as well. If there weren’t any snakes to eat some of us, then we would overmultiply and then there wouldn’t be room for all of us.”


There is no definite standard of good and bad. When something happens, it all depends on whether you look at  it from the good side or from the bad side.

Do Not Grasp Either Extreme

Posted: November 20, 2011 in Short Stories

There was once a very wealthy man who was so miserly that he couldn’t bear to spend even a single cent of his vast wealth. One day the Zen master Mokusen paid him a visit.

“If I held my hand in a fist like this forever, what would you call it?” he asked the man, holding his hand up.

“Deformed,” the man answered.

“If I opened it up like this and keep it this way forever, what would you call it?”

“The same, deformed.”

“As long as you understand this, you’ll be a happy, rich man,” the master said and left.

From that day forward, the wealthy man became a generous man. He was still frugal, but he also understood how to spend money and contribute to charities.


All opposites (good and evil, having and lacking, benefit and harm, self and others) are due to the differentiating mind. As soon as we give rise to such views, we turn away from our original mind and succumb to this dualism. Zen, however, stands in the middle, not on either side.

The Spider and the Monk

Posted: November 19, 2011 in Chinese, Short Stories

There was once a monk who was bothered by a great big spider whenever he tried to meditate. He spoke to his Master: “Every time I try to meditate, this big spider appears, and no matter what I do, I just can’t get rid of it.”

“Hmmm… Next time you go to meditate, grab a paintbrush, and if that spider shows up again, draw a circle right on its belly; then you will see what kind of a monster it is.”

So the monk took his master’s advice, and as soon as he had finished drawing the circle on the spider’s belly, the spider disappeared and the monk was able to continue meditating in peace. When he withdrew from his concentration, the first thing he saw was a big black circle right on his own belly.


We all experience troubles and worries, but it often happens that our greatest troubles arise from ourselves.

The Blind Man and the Lantern

Posted: November 19, 2011 in Short Stories
Tags: ,

A blind man left his village and followed the winding path through the forest. He was on his way to see his friend in the neighboring hamlet. After his arrival, the two friends spent many happy hours together. At last, it was time for the blind man to return to his village.

“Here,” his friend said, “it is already nightfall. Take this lantern with you.”

“Lantern? What good is a lantern to a blind man?” he asked.

“It is to avoid accidents. It will help other travelers on the narrow path see you coming.”

With this thought in mind, the blind man took the lantern; thanked his friend, and went on his way. While plodding along the meandering path, he enjoyed the cool, fragrant mist which enveloped both him and the sound of chirping crickets. However, imagine his surprise when nearly home, he suddenly collided with a huge man.

“Fool! Why don’t you watch where you’re going?” the big man shouted.

“Why didn’t you see my lantern?” asked the blind man.

“Lantern? Your light had already gone out!”

The General’s Antique

Posted: November 19, 2011 in Short Stories

A general was toying with his prized antique. As he handled it, he dropped it and it almost shattered into pieces had he not caught it in time. He thought to himself, “I have commanded tens of thousands of troops to risk my life in battle, and was never afraid. Why then did I become so agitated over a small cup?”

He finally realized that it was attachment that brought about the fear of loss, thus causing him anxiety (differentiating “like” and “dislike” in his mind that led to his being frightened).

Upon realizing this, he tossed the cup over his shoulder and smashing it to pieces.