3 Powerful Zen Stories You Should Know
If you know anything about Buddhism, you’ve probably heard about Zen. In fact, it’s probably one of the most popular forms of Buddhism in the world. Known for its emphasis on rigorous meditation and insight into daily life, Zen has become known for being nothing less than one of the most practical religions in the world. Instead of focusing on sutras and religious studies, Zen focuses on simple stories, and allegories were told to illustrate important teachings. Here are 3 popular Zen stories, each with something valuable to learn.
SEE ALSO: What’s The Meaning Of The Fat Buddha?
1) The horse
A horse suddenly came galloping quickly down the road. It seemed as though the man had somewhere important to go. Another man, who was standing alongside the road, shouted, “Where are you going?” and the man on the horse replied, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”
This short (and confusing) story has an interesting meaning behind it. The horse is a symbol of our habits, which constantly pull us in the direction it wants to. It illustrates how most people usually live, at the mercy of their habits created by mindless activity and surrounding environment. If you stopped to ask yourself what you’re doing or why you’re running around so much, you might be surprised to learn how your actions are largely dictated by habits- not your free will.
And as much energy as we put into running around, a lot of the time it gets us nowhere. You have to realize you can take the reigns and make your own destiny.
2) Right understanding
“Suzuki Roshi, I’ve been listening to your lectures for years,” a student said during the question and answer time following a lecture, “but I just don’t understand. Could you just please put it in a nutshell? Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?” Everyone laughed. Suzuki laughed. “Everything changes,” he said. Then he asked for another question.
One of the most important teachings in Buddhism is the nature of impermanence. Impermanence is a fundamental part of the universe we inhabit. You’re impermanent, your loved ones, your friends, home, planet, the stars…everything must fade away one day. So why is this so important? Because it illustrates how grasping onto things (attachment) is one of the primary reasons we suffer. This encourages us to stay in the present moment…to accept that everything is a passing experience. This realization and practice leads to true peace.
3) Bad luck
Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
This farmer is practicing non-judgment. He understands that life is a series of up and down events, many of which are out of our control.
After all, our life doesn’t play out like a well-written piece of fiction with a perfect ending. Good and bad events are interconnected- and things can change in an instant.
That doesn’t mean happiness can’t be found, just that we need to be aware of it- in other words, living in the moment.
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