Zen Kōans

One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice.  As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine. Suddenly, he  noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious!

~~~

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. 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?”

~~~

A martial arts student went to his teacher and said earnestly, “I am devoted to studying your martial system. How long will it take me to master it?” The teacher’s reply was casual, “Ten years.” Impatiently, the student answered, “But I want to master it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice everyday, ten or more hours a day if I have to. How long will it take then?” The teacher thought for a moment, “20 years.”

~~~

Upon meeting a Zen master at a social event, a psychiatrist decided to ask him a question that had been on his mind. “Exactly how do you help people?” he inquired. “I get them to where they can’t ask any more questions,” the master replied.

~~~

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 accross because of a puddle of water. The elder of the two monks went up to a her lifted her and left her on the other side of the road, and continued his way to the monastery. In the evening the younger monk came to the elder monk and said, “Sir, as monks, we cannot touch a woman?” The elder monk answered “yes, brother.” Then the younger monk asked 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.”

~~~

One day Mara, the Evil One, was travelling through the villages of India with his attendants. He saw a man doing walking meditation whose face was lit up on wonder. The man had just discovered something on the ground in front of him. Mara’s attendant asked what that was and Mara replied, “A piece of truth.” “Doesn’t this bother you when someone finds a piece of truth, O Evil One?” his attendant asked. “No,” Mara replied. “Right after this, they usually make an ideology out of it.”

Please forgive my quotation of Pope Francis here, but his words are an uncanny commentary:

In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought… For this reason Jesus said to them: ‘You have taken away the key of knowledge.’ The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements. The faith becomes ideology, and ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians. It is an illness, but it is not new, eh?
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