My heart burns like fire

Soyen Shaku, the first Zen teacher to come to America, said: “My heart burns like fire but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes.” He made the following rules which he practiced every day of his life. In the morning before dressing, light incense and meditate. Retire at a regular hour. Partake of food…

The Sound of One Hand

The master of Kennin temple was Mokurai, Silent Thunder. He had a little protege named Toyo who was only twelve years old. Toyo saw the older disciples visit the master’s room each morning and evening to receive instruction in sanzen or personal guidance in which they were given koans to stop mind-wandering. Toyo wished to…

The magical begging bowl

When you desire something, your joy depends on that something. If it is taken away, you are miserable; if it is given to you, you are happy. But only for the moment! That too has to be understood. Whenever your desire is fulfilled it is only for the moment that you feel joy. It is…

A Mother’s Advice

Jiun, a Shingon master, was a well-known Sanskrit scholar of the Tokugawa era. When he was young he used to deliver lectures to his brother students. His mother heard about this and wrote him a letter: “Son, I do not think you became a devotee of the Buddha because you desired to turn into a…

Zen Master Ikkyu

A disciple had come to see Ikkyu, his master. The disciple had been practicing for some time. It was raining, and as he went in, he left his shoes and umbrella outside. After he paid his respects, the master asked him on which side of his shoes he had left his umbrella. Now, what kind…

A Parable

Buddha told a parable in sutra: A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to…

Gutei′s finger pointing to the One

The Zen master Gutei made a practice of raising his finger whenever he explained a question about Zen. A very young disciple began to imitate him, and whenever anyone asked the disciple what his master had been preaching about, the boy would raise his finger. Gutei got to hear about this, and when he came…

Stingy in Teaching

A young physician in Tokyo named Kusuda met a college friend who had been studying Zen. The young doctor asked him what Zen was. “I cannot tell you what it is,” the friend replied, “but one thing is certain. If you understand Zen, you will not be afraid to die.” “That’s fine,” said Kusuda. “I…

The woman and the river crossing

Two Buddhist monks are returning to their monastery; they come to a ford. The current is very powerful, it is a hilly place. A young, beautiful girl is waiting there, waiting for somebody to help her to cross. She is afraid to enter alone. One monk, who is the older one of course… because he…

The fortunes and misfortunes of a villager

A man had a very beautiful horse, and the horse was so rare that even emperors had asked the man to sell it–whatsoever the price–but he refused. Then one morning he found that the horse had been stolen. The whole village gathered to sympathize, and they said, ″How unfortunate! You could have got a fortune–people…

The professor and his thirst for answers

A professor of philosophy went to a Zen Master, Nan-in, and he asked about God, about nirvana, about meditation, and so many things. The Master listened silently–questions and questions and questions–and then he said, ″You look tired. You have climbed this high mountain; you have come from a faraway place. Let me first serve you…

Zen, the life of Master Dogen

Zen The life of Zen Master Dogen Dogen was born in 1200, in Uji, close to Kyoto. His father belonged to the Minamoto clan and was descended from emperor Murakami (947-967). During this epoch Japan was going through a time of problems. The country had recently become subject to two powers, that of the emperor…