101 Zen Stories


I am what I am
Registered Senior Member
Buddha's Zen

Buddha said: "I consider the positions of kings and rulers as
that of dust motes. I observe treasures of gold and gems as
so many bricks and pebbles. I look upon the finest silken robes
as tattered rags. I see myriad worlds of the universe as small
seeds of fruit, and the greatest lake in India as a drop of oil on
my foot. I perceive the teachings of the world to be the illusion
of magicians. I discern the highest conception of emancipation
as a golden brocade in a dream, and view the holy path of the
illuminated ones as flowers appearing in one's eyes. I see
meditation as a pillar of a mountain, Nirvana as a nightmare of
daytime. I look upon the judgment of right and wrong as the
serpentine dance of a dragon, and the rise and fall of beliefs as
but traces left by the four seasons."

Pg. 151

The Gateless Gate

If a reader is brave enough and goes straight forward in his
meditation, no delusions can disturb him. He will become
enlightened just as did the patriarchs in India and in China,
probably even better. But if he hesitates one moment, he is
as a person watching from a small window for a horseman to
pass by, and in a wink he has missed seeing.

The great path has no gates,
Thousands of roads enter it.
When one passes through this
gateless gate
He walks freely between heaven
and earth.

Pg. 162

Source: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
Thought there were actually going to be a 101 stories in this post. :bugeye:

Interesting translation, though, in the last part, that it says in a wink you have missed seeing, cos I thought winking was only with one eye? :p

But yes, wise words. :)
If you wink with both eyes at the same
time does it then become a blink? ;)

I think that last part is refering to
this koan from The Gateless Gate:

Dried Dung

A monk asked Ummon: "What is Buddha?"
Ummon answered him: "Dried dung."

Mumon's Comment: It seems to me Ummon
is so poor he cannot distinguish the taste of one
food from another, or else he is too busy to write
readable letters. Well, he tried to hold his school
with dried dung. And his teaching was just as

Lightning flashes,
Sparks shower.
In one blink of your eyes
You have missed seeing.
I have that book too. I've carried around Zen Flesh, Zen Bones so much that it started to fall apart.

I know what you mean

I am on my second copy of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones.
The Dhammapada is another one that has seen a
better days.
I came, I saw, I ascended the mountain

Traveling this high
mountain trail, delighted
by violets

The Stone Mind

Hogen, a Chinese Zen teacher, lived alone in a small temple in
the country. One day four traveling monks appeared and asked
if they might make a fire in his yard to warm themselves.
While they were building the fire, Hogen heard them arguing
about subjectivity and objectivity. He joined them and said:
"There is a big stone. Do you consider it to be inside or outside
your mind?"
One of the monks replied: "From the Buddhist viewpoint
everything is an objectification of mind, so I would say that the
stone is inside my mind."
"Your head must feel very heavy," observed Hogen, "if you are
carrying around a stone like that in your mind."

Source: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones


Gasan instructed his adherents one day: "Those who speak
against killing and who desire to spare the lives of all conscious
beings are right. It is good to protect even animals and insects.
But what about those persons who kill time, what about those
who are destroying wealth, and those who destroy political
economy? We should not overlook them. Furthermore, what of
the one who preaches without enlightenment? He is killing

Source: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
A Useless Life

A farmer got so old that he couldn't work the fields anymore. So
he would spend the day just sitting on the porch. His son, still
working the farm, would look up from time to time and see his
father sitting there. "He's of no use any more," the son thought
to himself, "he doesn't do anything!" One day the son got so
frustrated by this, that he built a wood coffin, dragged it over to
the porch, and told his father to get in. Without saying anything,
the father climbed inside. After closing the lid, the son dragged
the coffin to the edge of the farm where there was a high cliff. As
he approached the drop, he heard a light tapping on the lid from
inside the coffin. He opened it up. Still lying there peacefully, the
father looked up at his son. "I know you are going to throw me
over the cliff, but before you do, may I suggest something?"
"What is it?" replied the son. "Throw me over the cliff, if you like,"
said the father, "but save this good wood coffin. Your children
might need to use it."

Zen Stories To Tell Your Neighbors
There was once a holy man who lived in a state of ecstasy, but was regarded by everyone as insane. One day, having begged for food in the village, he sat by the roadside and began to eat when a dog came up and looked at him hungrily. The holy man then began to feed the dog; he himself would take a morsel, then give a morsel to the dog as though he and the dog were old friends. Soon a crowd gathered around the two of them to watch this extraordinary sight.

One of the men in the crowd jeered at the holy man. He said to the others, "What can you expect from someone so crazy that he is not able to distinguish between a human being and a dog?"

The holy man replied, "Why do you laugh? Do you not see Vishnu seated with Vishnu? Vishnu is being fed and Vishnu is doing the feeding. So why do you laugh, oh Vishnu?"
A group of frogs were traveling through the woods, when two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit. When they saw how deep it was, they told the two frogs that they were as good as dead.

The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up out of the pit with all of their might. The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as dead. Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and gave up. She fell down and died.

The other frog continued to jump as hard as she could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at her to stop the pain and just die. She began jumping even harder and finally made it out. When she got out, the other frogs said, "Did you not hear us?" The frog explained to them that she was deaf -- she thought they were encouraging her to jump out of the hole the entire time.
The warty frog and the prize goldfish met one summer afternoon in the temple pool.
"Don't you realize how beautiful I am?" bubbled the goldfish flashing her wispy tail.
The frog made no reply. "I can understand your silence," gloated the goldfish. "I am
not only graceful in my movements but I also enhance the golden rays of the sun."
Again, neither answer or movements from the frog. "Say something," demanded the
goldfish just as a waiting crane speared the sparkling fish and flew into the sky.
"Bye bye," croaked the frog.

Source: Zen Fables For Today
According to an ancient Indian fable, a mouse was in constant distress because of its fear of the cat. A magician took pity on it and turned it into a cat. But then it became afraid of the dog. So the magician turned it into a dog. Then it began to fear the panther. So the magician turned it into a panther. Whereupon it was full of fear for the hunter. At this point the magician gave up, and turned it into a mouse again saying, "Nothing I do for you is going to be of any help because you have the heart of a mouse."
In ancient India there was a King called Janaka, who was also a sage. One day Janaka was taking a nap on his flower-strewn bed with his servants fanning him and his soldiers standing guard outside his door. As he dozed off, he had a dream in which a neighboring King defeated him in battle, took him prisoner, and had him tortured. As soon as the torture began, Janaka woke with a start to find himself lying on his flower-strewn bed with his servants fanning him and his soldiers on guard.

Once again he dozed off and had the same dream. And once again he woke up to find himself safe and comfortable in his palace.

Now Janaka began to be disturbed by several thoughts: While he was asleep, the world of his dreams had seemed so real. Now that he was awake, the world of the senses seemed real. Which of these two worlds is the real one, he wanted to know.

None of the philosophers, scholars, and seers he consulted could give him an answer. And for many years he searched in vain, till one day a man called Ashtavakra knocked at the door of the palace. Now, Ashtavakra means "entirely deformed or crooked," and he got that name because that is exactly what his body had been from birth.

At first the King was not disposed to take this man seriously. "How can a misshapen man like you be the carrier of a wisdom denied to my seers and scholars?" he asked.

"Right from my childhood, all avenues have been closed to me -- so I avidly pursued the path of wisdom," was Ashtavakra's reply.

"Speak, then," said the King.

So this is what Ashtavakra said: "O King, neither the waking state nor the dream state is real. When you are awake, the world of dreams does not exist and when you dream the world of the senses does not exist. Therefore, neither is real."

"If both the waking and the dream states are unreal, then what is real?" asked the King.

"There is a state beyond these two. Discover that. It alone is real."

Not Far From Buddhahood

A university student while visiting Gasan asked him: "Have you
ever read the Christian Bible?" "No read it to me," said Gasan.
The student opened the Bible and read from St. Matthew: "And
why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field,
how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say
unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like
one of these. . . . Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for
the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself." Gasan
said: "Whoever uttered those words I consider an enlightened
man." The student continued reading: "Ask and it shall be given
you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto
you. For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh
findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened." Gasan
remarked: "That is excellent. Whoever said that is not far from

Source: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
Socrates believed that the wise person would instinctively lead a frugal life. He himself would not even wear shoes; yet he constantly fell under the spell of the marketplace and would go there often to look at all the wares on display.

When one of his friends asked why, Socrates said, "I love to go there and discover how many things I am perfectly happy without."
There was a group of elderly gentlemen in Japan who would meet to exchange news and drink tea. One of their diversions was to search for costly varieties of tea and create new blends that would delight the palate.

When it was the turn of the oldest member of the group to entertain the others, he served tea with the greatest ceremony, measuring out the leaves from a golden container. Everyone had the highest praise for the tea and demanded to know by what particular combination he had arrived at this exquisite blend.

The old man smiled and said, "Gentlemen, the tea that you find so delightful is the one that is drunk by the peasants on my farm. The finest things in life are neither costly nor hard to find."

Nothing Exists

Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one
master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.

Desiring to show his attainment, he said: "The mind, Buddha,
and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of
phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion,
no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be

Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he
whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth
quite angry.

"If nothing exists," inquired Dokuon, "where did this anger
come from?"

Source: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
Many centuries ago in Japan, an ex-warlord and his best friend were riding their horses down a dusty road when a light rain came, that quickly passed. Then they saw a beautiful rainbow appear in the sky, and eventually came to where one side of the colorful arc touched down on the ground. It was right beside the road, where a monk was sitting below a blossoming plum tree. The two pulled their horses to a halt, in order to ask the monk some questions about the local area, when they noticed that there were tears streaming down his face, and he was smiling.

The ex-warlord asked, "Why do you cry, friend?"

"Because you can finally see me," answered the monk.