Buddhist Zen Stories

Japanese style Buddha statue
Japanese Buddha Statue in Abhaya mudra 36″

Zen Story –The Most Important Teaching

A renowned Zen master said that his greatest teaching was this: Buddha is your own mind. So impressed by how profound this idea was, one monk decided to leave the monastery and retreat to the wilderness to meditate on this insight. There he spent 20 years as a hermit probing the great teaching.

One day he met another monk who was traveling through the forest. Quickly the hermit monk learned that the traveler also had studied under the same Zen master. “Please, tell me what you know of the master’s greatest teaching.” The traveler’s eyes lit up, “Ah, the master has been very clear about this. He says that his greatest teaching is this: Buddha is NOT your own mind.”

“The mind, the Buddha, living creatures – these are not three different things” – ~Avatamasaka Sutra~

Zen Story – Nature’s Beauty

A priest was in charge of the garden within a famous Zen temple. He had been given the job because he loved the flowers, shrubs, and trees. Next to the temple there was another, smaller temple where there lived a very old Zen master. One day, when the priest was expecting some special guests, he took extra care in tending to the garden. He pulled the weeds, trimmed the shrubs, combed the moss, and spent a long time meticulously raking up and carefully arranging all the dry autumn leaves. As he worked, the old master watched him with interest from across the wall that separated the temples.

When he had finished, the priest stood back to admire his work. “Isn’t it beautiful,” he called out to the old master. “Yes,” replied the old man, “but there is something missing. Help me over this wall and I’ll put it right for you.”

After hesitating, the priest lifted the old fellow over and set him down. Slowly, the master walked to the tree near the center of the garden, grabbed it by the trunk, and shook it. Leaves showered down all over the garden. “There,” said the old man, “you can put me back now.”

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~

Zen Story – Going with the Flow

A Taoist story tells of an old man who accidentally fell into the river rapids leading to a high and dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for his life. Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed downstream at the bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive. “I accommodated myself to the water, not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived.”

“A Buddha is just someone with no concerns”

Optimize Your Environment

For many people, their living environment is simply a place to lay their head at night and go to between the hustle and bustle of daily life or for others merely a storage compartment for all their many possessions.   But what many people don’t realize is that our personal homes and spaces are often a reflection of ourselves and our internal states.  The way you maintain and care for your home can speak wonders for how you are feeling inside.  If your personal space is cluttered, crammed, or overwhelming, it might suggest some internal struggle, or even perhaps infiltrate stress into your life.

Taking some time to organize, purge the unnecessary, and add some personal touches to your home can alleviate stresses and become a calming presence in your life.  Buddhist principles stress simplicity.   Although minimalism is encouraged, I believe that our homes should be regarded as a sanctuary of sorts; a safe place where we can unwind and be surrounded with things that make us joyful.  Take away all the unnecessary things and replace them with a few objects that make you happy.  If art is medium of relief for you, create a space just for painting.  The same goes for music, crafts, writing, or whatever it is you like to do to bring yourself ease and contentment.

10″ Teaching Gandhara Buddha Statue by Lotus Sculpture $115

If spirituality is important to you, create a space for meditation or private reflection.  Someplace quiet, simple, and away from the chaos that may be your household on a daily basis.  Even consider bringing a meditative tool into your life, a teaching Buddha Statue, to help with your focus and as a constant reminder of the necessity for practice.

As William Morris once said,

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”