5 Zen Stories You’ve Never Heard (But Will Definitely Love)

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ZEN-Spiration

Sometimes a story can teach more than entire books of philosophy or world renowned religious scriptures.
These are some of my favorite Zen Buddhist stories to date, and contain some of the most fascinating wisdom I’ve ever come across.
Enjoy!

On Changing the World

An old man walks down to the beach and sees it is covered with tens of thousands of starfish, as far as the eye can see. Far down the beach he sees a young girl who is picking the starfish up, one by one, and tossing them back in the ocean.
Amused, he walks to the girl to speak with her. “Little girl,” the old man says, “What are you doing?”
“I’m saving these starfishes lives,” says the girl. “If I don’t throw them back in the water, they’ll drown. They need the water to live.”
The old man laughs to himself. Näive girl, he thinks. “But you are only one person. There are tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. How can you possibly make a difference?”
The girl bends down, picks up a star fish, looks at it, looks up at the man, tosses it into the surf, then says, “I made a difference for that one.”

On the Nature of God

Several citizens ran into a hot argument about God and different religions, and each one could not agree to a common answer. So they came to the Lord Buddha to find out what exactly God looks like.
The Buddha asked his disciples to get a large magnificent elephant and four blind men. He then brought the four blind to the elephant and told them to find out what the elephant would “look” like.
The first blind man touched the elephant leg and reported that it “looked” like a pillar. The second blind man touched the elephant tummy and said that an elephant was a wall. The third blind man touched the elephant ear and said that it was a piece of cloth. The fourth blind man held the elephant by the tail and described the elephant as a piece of rope. And all of them ran into a hot argument about the “appearance” of an elephant.
The Buddha asked the citizens: “Each blind man had touched the elephant but each of them gives a different description of the animal. Which answer is right?”

On Really Letting Go

Two monks were returning to the monastery in the evening. It had rained and there were puddles of water on the road sides. At one place a beautiful young woman was standing unable to walk across because of a puddle of water. The elder of the two monks went up and lifted her to the other side of the road, and continued his way to the monastery.
Hours later, the younger monk came to the elder monk and said, “Sir isn’t it true, as monks, we cannot touch a woman?”
The elder monk answered “yes, brother, that is true.”
Then the younger monk asks again, “but then, sir, how is that you lifted that woman on the roadside?”
The elder monk smiled at him and told him ” I left her on the other side of the road, but you are still carrying her.”

On Knowing Yourself

There was once a pair of acrobats. The teacher was a poor widower and the student was a young girl by the name of Meda. These acrobats performed each day on the streets in order to earn enough to eat.
Their act consisted of the teacher balancing a tall bamboo pole on his head while the little girl climbed slowly to the top. Once to the top, she remained there while the teacher walked along the ground.
Both performers had to maintain complete focus and balance in order to prevent any injury from occurring and to complete the performance. One day, the teacher said to the pupil:
‘Listen Meda, I will watch you and you watch me, so that we can help each other maintain concentration and balance and prevent an accident. Then we’ll surely earn enough to eat.’
But the little girl was wise, she answered, ‘Dear master, I think it would be better for each of us to watch ourself. To look after oneself means to look after both of us. That way I am sure we will avoid any accidents and earn enough to eat.’

On Heaven and Hell

A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin, and asked: “Is there really a paradise and a hell?”
“Who are you?” inquired Hakuin. “I am a samurai,” the warrior replied.
“You, a soldier!” exclaimed Hakuin. “What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face looks like that of a beggar.” Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but Hakuin continued: “So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably much too dull to cut off my head.”
As Nobushige drew his sword Hakuin remarked: “Here open the gates of hell!” At these words the samurai, perceiving the master’s discipline, sheathed his sword and bowed.
“Here open the gates of paradise,” said Hakuin.
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source and courtesy: sivanaspirit

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