101 Zen Stories
March 8, 2005 6:17 AM   Subscribe

101 Zen Stories.
posted by sciurus (27 comments total)
If a Mefite clicks a link in the woods, and no-one reads the page, is a hit registered?

Great one, sciurus. I love this stuff. Keeps me sane.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:44 AM on March 8, 2005

You should also check out A few good quantum mechanical Zen koans and Zen Filter which links to many other Zen story collections (among other things Zen).
posted by Outlawyr at 6:55 AM on March 8, 2005

Me too. Me too. I love these.
posted by nthdegx at 7:02 AM on March 8, 2005

The problem is -- entertaining and useful as these are to read in bulk -- I think they'd be much more useful to read little and often. The trouble is remembering.
posted by nthdegx at 7:10 AM on March 8, 2005

I need to remember.
posted by TheNakedPixel at 7:17 AM on March 8, 2005

These are wonderful. It might be worth mentioning that all these stories, along with additional stories, koans and commentary, appear in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, previously mentioned here in a rather different context.

Thanks, sciurus.
posted by louigi at 7:28 AM on March 8, 2005

I have to copy/paste this one from the quantum mechanical link:

Joshu (A.D. 778-897) was a famous Chinese Zen Master who lived in Joshu, the province from which he took his name. One day a troubled monk approached him, intending to ask the Master for guidance. A dog walked by. The monk asked Joshu, "Has that dog a Buddha-nature or not?" The monk had barely completed his question when Joshu shouted: "MU!"

posted by nofundy at 7:34 AM on March 8, 2005

there are daily zen workouts, such as they are, on the newsgroup alt.buddha.shortfatguy; honestly, the last I checked it had devolved into farily nasty backbiting. However, the FAQ alone are worth the visit.

My favorite koan: The pupil, Roshan, sought enlightenment from zen master Ishi, but was impatient and asked the master daily when his goal would be attained. Instead of answering, Ishi asked his student whether he would like a some ice cream.

"Yes, master," replied Roshan. "Then I will give you none," said Ishi and instead gave the treat to another student who had not requested any.

"You see, Roshan," said the Master, "if you want ice cream, you shan't have any, and if you desire it not, you will receive it." This is known as the Ice Cream Koan
posted by beelzbubba at 8:07 AM on March 8, 2005

I really enjoyed this one:

One day Chuang-tzu and a friend were walking along a riverbank. "How delightfully the fishes are enjoying themselves in the water!" Chuang-tzu exclaimed.
"You are not a fish," his friend said. "How do you know whether or not the fishes are enjoying themselves?"
"You are not me," Chuang-tzu said. "How do you know that I do not know that the fishes are enjoying themselves?"

posted by Ljubljana at 8:32 AM on March 8, 2005

Yes Ljubljana, that is a really good one. These are all like sweet candy to me.
posted by Outlawyr at 8:40 AM on March 8, 2005

Lisa: What is the sound of one hand clapping?
Bart: Piece of cake. [claps with one hand]
Lisa: No, Bart, it's a 3000-year-old riddle with no anwer. It's supposed to clear your mind of conscious thought.
Bart: No answer? Lisa, listen up! [claps with one hand]
posted by Katemonkey at 8:41 AM on March 8, 2005

Another ice cream koan.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:42 AM on March 8, 2005

How Grass and Trees Become Enlightened

During the Kamakura period, Shinkan studied Tendai six years and then studied Zen seven years; then he went to China and contemplated Zen for thirteen years more.

When he returned to Japan many desired to interview him and asked obscure questions. But when Shinkan received visitors, which was infrequently, he seldom answered their questions.

One day a fifty-year-old student of enlightenment said to Shinkan: "I have studied the Tendai school of thought since I was a little boy, but one thing in it I cannot understand. Tendai claims that even the grass and trees will become enlightened. To me this seems very strange."

"Of what use is it to discuss how grass and trees become enlightened?" asked Shinkan. "The question is how you yourself can become so. Did you even consider that?"

"I never thought of it that way," marveled the old man.

"Then go home and think it over," finished Shinkan.

I am soooooo unenlightened.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:47 AM on March 8, 2005

I'm a big fan of the One Word Barrier, though I've not found a good online version yet, so I'll excerpt:

A monk asked Yunmen, "What is Buddha?"
Yunmen said, "Kanshiketsu!" [dried shit-stick]
posted by freebird at 9:06 AM on March 8, 2005

Apparently all the modern Zen teachers in Japan are descended from a deadbeat dad.
posted by Bezbozhnik at 9:40 AM on March 8, 2005

One of my favorite zen monks is Ikkyu. His poems are wonderful. A favorite:

Lots of arms, just like Kannon the Goddess;
Sacrificed for me, garnished with citron, I revere it so!
The taste of the sea, just divine!
Sorry, Buddha, this is another precept I just cannot keep.

And his poems on sex...

Eight inches strong, it is my favourite thing;
If I'm alone at night, I embrace it fully -
A beautiful woman hasn't touched it for ages.
Within my fundoshi there is an entire universe!

More to be found here and here (and of course in dead tree format).
posted by splice at 9:49 AM on March 8, 2005

Sorry for the Amazon links, but I highly recommend Zen Speaks and Tao Speaks for a very accessible introduction to Eastern thought and religion.

Delightful little books.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:54 AM on March 8, 2005

splice - that's rad, I think those are the same Ikkyu poems I've quoted here somewhere. I'm intrigued by your "dead tree format" though - the book I used to have is out of print (the Shambhala pocket book, wonderful...) and I'm missing it. If you know of another book edition, or a place to order the old one, enlighten us! :)
posted by freebird at 10:08 AM on March 8, 2005

Thanks for the link!

I agree with nthdegx, frequent small doses are the way to go. Maybe I'll put this on my "check daily" tab. Next to Metafilter...

freebird, "Kanshiketsu!" is going to be my new swear. (Replacing "Fuckstick!" a la Christopher Moore. What is it with the sticks that's so funny?)
posted by Specklet at 10:28 AM on March 8, 2005

What I find disturbing is that many translations use "Toilet Paper" for "Shit Stick"....ouch!
posted by freebird at 10:44 AM on March 8, 2005

As I understand it, the shit stick was used then for what we now use toilet paper. But yes, nothing works like shit stick.
posted by Outlawyr at 10:52 AM on March 8, 2005

I've read that it's the stick used for stirring the outhouse familar to those of us from more rural backgrounds. I somehow find that makes a better koan than the wiping stick...no, they're equally good.
posted by freebird at 10:58 AM on March 8, 2005

Why would you stir an outhouse?
Never mind, maybe I don't want to know.

More importantly, what is the sound of one hand stirring an outhouse?

posted by Outlawyr at 12:17 PM on March 8, 2005

I can feel my cup filling up. Great Post.
posted by ReggieNoble2 at 12:55 PM on March 8, 2005

My favorite:

A Zen Teacher saw five of his students return from the market, riding their bicycles. When they had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, "Why are you riding your bicycles?"

The first student replied, "The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!" The teacher praised the student, saying, "You are a smart boy. When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over, as I do

The second student replied, "I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path." The teacher commended the student, "Your eyes are open and you see the world."

The third student replied, "When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant, nam myoho renge kyo." The teacher gave praise to the third student, "Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel."

The fourth student answered, "Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all beings." The teacher was pleased and said, "You are riding on the golden path of non-harming."

The fifth student replied, "I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle." The teacher went and sat at the feet of the fifth student, and said, "I am your disciple."

Great post, BTW.
posted by fixedgear at 1:53 PM on March 8, 2005

Another ice cream koan.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:42 AM PST on March 8 [!]

Thankee kindly, sonofsamiam. I have added these to the institutional knowledge db.
posted by beelzbubba at 1:54 PM on March 8, 2005

freebird, I don't have any books with Ikkyu's poems, unfortunately, but finding some shouldn't be a problem. Amazon has both Crow with no mouth (Stephen Berg translations) and Wild Ways (John Stevens translations). I haven't read either, but I've read some of the translations from these books from one of the links I posted. I prefer Stevens' translation as opposed to Berg's reworkings of Ikkyu's 4 line verses into couplets, but the latter has its gems too. I think the Wild Ways book was the one put out by Shambhala in 1995, but the one I linked to is a White Pine Press printing.

There's also Ikkyu and The Crazy Cloud anthology, although that definitely is out of print. Used copies can be found but are pretty expensive. Still, I heard it was quite well regarded and worth the price if you can find a copy. You can also find links to a few more works on this page.

And then, of course, there's the books in Japanese. I'm sure there's a bunch of them, and I'd buy some if I was near fluent (I'm just an amateur).
posted by splice at 6:15 AM on March 9, 2005

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