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Reading about Zen Buddhism recently, here’s a few stories I like.


During his stay under Master Hyakujo, Isan was a cooking monk. As Master Hyakujo wished to send a monk to found the new monastery called the Great Mount I, Master Hyakujo told the chief monk and all other monks that he would choose the one who would demonstrate himself as the best among them. Then Master Hyakujo brought out a drinking water jar, put it down and said, “You cannot call it a water jar. Then, what will you call it?”

The chief monk said, “One cannot call it a wooden stick.”

Then, when Master Hyakujo turned to Isan, Isan kicked the jar and walked away. Master Hyakujo laughed and said, “The chief monk lost it to Isan.” He made Isan the founder of the Great I-san Monastery.


Fa-yen asked the monk Hsüan-tzu why he had never asked him any questions about Zen. The monk explained that he had already attained his understanding from another master. Pressed by Fa-yen for an explanation, the monk said that when he had asked his teacher, “What is the Buddha?” he had received the answer, “Ping ting T’ung-tzu comes for fire!”
“A good answer!” said Fa-yen. “But I’m sure you don’t understand it.”
“Ping-ting,” explained the monk, “is the god of fire. For him to be seeking for fire is like myself, seeking the Buddha. I’m the Buddha already, and no asking is needed.”
“Just as I thought!” laughed Fa-yen. “You didn’t get it.”
The monk was so offended that he left the monastery, but later repented of himself and returned, humbly requesting instruction.
“You ask me,” said Fa-yen.
“What is the Buddha?” inquired the monk.
“Ping-ting T’ung-tzu comes for fire!”


A monk asked Ts’ui-wei, “For what reason did the First Patriarch come from the West?”
Ts’ui-wei answered, “Pass me that chin-rest.”
As soon as the monk passed it, Ts’ui-wei hit him with it.

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