The overflowing teacup
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era, received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
When the shoe fits
Chu’i the draftsman
Could draw more perfect circles freehand
Than with a compass.
His fingers brought forth
Spontaneous forms from nowhere. His mind
Was meanwhile free and without concern
With what he was doing.
No application was needed
His mind was perfectly simple
And knew no obstacle.
So, when the shoe fits,
The foot is forgotten,
When the belt fits,
The belly is forgotten,
When the heart is right,
"For" and "against" are forgotten.
No drives, no compulsions,
no needs, no attractions:
then your affairs are under control.
You are a free man.
Easy is right. Begin right
And you are easy.
Continue easy and you are right.
The right way to go easy
Is to forget the right way
And forget that the going is easy.
The frog and the centipede
A centipede walks with a hundred legs. A frog, a philosopher, saw the centipede, he looked and watched and he became very troubled; it is so difficult to walk even with four legs, but this centipede was walking with one hundred legs. This was a miracle! How did the centipede decide which leg to move first, and then which one next and then which one after that? And one hundred legs! So the frog stopped the centipede and asked a question: I am a philosopher and I am puzzled by you. A problem has arisen which I cannot solve. How do you walk? How do you manage it at all? It seems impossible! The centipede said: I have been walking all my life, but I have not thought about it. Now that you ask, I will think about it and then I will tell you.
For the first time thought entered the centipede’s consciousness. Really, the frog was right – which leg should be moved first? The centipede stood there for a few minutes, couldn’t move, wobbled, and fell down. And he said to the frog: Please don’t ask another centipede this question. I have been walking throughout my life and it was never a problem, and now you have killed me completely! I cannot move. And a hundred legs to move! How can I manage?
The Tigers and the Strawberry
A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.
Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!
Nansen Kills the cat
Once the monks of the eastern and western Zen halls were quarrelling about a cat. Nansen held up the cat and said, "You monks! If one of you can say a word, I will spare the cat. If you can't say anything, I will put it to the sword." No one could answer, so Nansen finally slew it.
In the evening, when Joshu returned, Nansen told him what had happened. Joshu, thereupon, took off his sandals, put them on his head and walked off. Nansen said, "If you had been there, I could have spared the cat.
Two interpretations from ``The Temple of the Golden Pavillion'' by Yukio Mishima:
`` The reason why Nansen had Killed the cat was that he had cut away the illusion of self and had eradicated all irrelevant thoughts and fantrasies from his mind. Putting his insensibility to practice, he had cut off the kitten's head and had thus cut off all contradictions, opposition, and discord between self and others. This was known as Murdering Sword, whereas Joshu's action was called the Life-Giving-Sword. By performing an action of such infinite magnanimity as wearing filthy and despised objects like shoes on his head, he had given a practical demonstration of the way of the Bodhisattva"
``You know the problem about Father Nansen and the kitten, don't you?...
That's a problem that crops up several times in a person's life, always in a slightly different form. It's a rather eery problem, you know. Each time that you come across it at some turning-point in your life, it's changed both in appearance and in meaning, though the problem itself is always the same. First let me tell you that the kitten which father Nansen killed was a rascal creature! She was beautiful, you know, incomparably beautiful. Her Eyes were golden, her fur was glossy. Every pleasure and beauty in this word was flexed taunt like a spring within that little body of hers. Most of the commentators have forgotten to mention the fact that the kitten was a bundle of beauty. Except for me, that is. The kitten jumped out of a clump all of a sudden. Her gentle, cunning eyes were shining and she was caught by one of the priest just as if she had done it all on purpose. And it was this that resulted in the quarrel between the two halls of the temple. Because although beauty may give itself to everyone, it does not actually belong to anybody.'' Let me see.
``How should I put it, Beauty-yes, beauty is like a decayed tooth. It rubs against one's tongue, it hangs there, hurting one, insisting on its own existence, finally it gets that one cannot stand the pain and goes to the dentist to have the tooth extracted. Then, as one looks at the small, dirty, brown, blood stained tooth lying in one's hand, one's thoughts are like to be as follows: 'is this it? Is this all it was? that thing which caused me so much pain, which made me constantly fret about its existence, which stubbornly rooted within me, is now just a dead object. But is this thing really the same as that thing? If this originally belonged to my outer existence, why-through what sort of providence- did it become attached to my inner existence and succeed in causing me so much pain? What was the basis of this creature's existence? Was the basis within me? Or was it within this creature itself? Yet this creature which has been pulled out of my mouth and which now lies in my hand is something utterly different. Surely it cannot be that.
``You see,'' continued Kasniwagi, ``that's what beauty is like. To have killed the kitten, therefore, seemed just like having extracted a painful decayed tooth, like having gauged out beauty. Yet it was uncertain whether or not this had really been a final solution. The root of the beauty ad not been severed and, even though the kitten was dead, the kitten's beauty might very well still be alive. And so, you sec, it was in order to satirise the glibness of this solution that Joshu put those shoes on his head. He knew, so to speak, that there was no possible solution other than enduring the pain of the decayed tooth.
From ``Lao-tzu: My words are very easy to understand'' by Cheng Man-Ching
Lecture: These are called the benefits on Non-action
``Not honouring men of worth keeps the people from competing;
Not wanting rare things keeps the people from thievery;
Not paying attention to the desirable keeps the hearts of the people from disaster.''
``This is why the Sage governs himself by
relaxing the mind,
reinforcing the abdomen,
gentling the will,
stretching the bones.''
``Always cause the people to be without knowledge or desire;
Cause the intelligent ones to not dare act.
Let there be non-action
And there is nothing that will not be well-regulated.''
From ``The way of Chuang Tzu'' by Thomas Merton
``... Therefore Chuang Tzu agrees with the paradox of Lao Tzu, ``When all the world recognizes good as good, it becomes evil," because it becomes something than one does not have and which one must constantly be pursuing until, in effect, it becomes unattainable.
The more one seeks ``the good'' outside oneself as something to be acquired, the more one is faced with the necessity of discussing, studying, understanding, analysing the nature of the good. The more, therefore, one becomes involved in abstractions and in the confusion of divergent opinions. The more ``the good'' is objectively analyzed, the more it is treated as something to be attained by special virtuous techniques, the less real it becomes. As it becomes less real, it recedes further into the distance of abstraction, futurity, unattainability. The more, therefore, one concentrates on the means to be used to attain it. And as the end becomes more remote and more difficult, the means becomes more elaborate and complex, until finally the mere study of the means becomes so demanding that all ones's effort must be concentrates on this end the end is forgotten. ... This is, in fact, nothing but organised despair: ``the good'' that is preached and exacted by the moralist thus finally becomes evil, and all the more so since the hopeless pursuit of it distracts one from the real good which one already possesses and which now one despises or ignores.''