View Full Version : What's your favorite koan or Zen story?

27 Jan 15, 15:20
I was thinking we could post our favorite koans and Zen stories here and reflect on them. Here's one of my favorites.

During the Kamakura period, Shinkan studied Tendai six years and then studied Zen seven years; then he went to China and contemplated Zen for thirteen years more.

When he returned to Japan many desired to interview him and asked onscure questions. But when Shinkan received visitors, which was infrequently, he seldom answered their questions.

One day a fifty-year-old student of enlightenment said to Shinkan: "I have studied the Tendai school of thought since I was a little boy, but one thing in it I cannot understand. Tendai claims that even the grass and trees will become enlightened. To me this seems very strange."

"Of what use is it to discuss how grass and trees become enlightened?" asked Shinkan. "The question is how you yourself can become so. Did you ever consider that?"

"I never thought of it in that way," marveled the old man.

"Then go home and think it over," finished Shinkan.


27 Jan 15, 19:22
This is one my favourites, The River Crossing by Tanzan.

27 Jan 15, 20:23
I've always enjoyed that one as well. I like the comic. That's a cool website.

27 Jan 15, 21:14
This is a great website too: http://www.thegatelessgate.com

Have you come across that before?

28 Jan 15, 03:36
No I haven't. Thank you. Though I am familiar with the Gateless Gate collection with Mumon's commentary.

28 Jan 15, 11:50
Under pines
I ask the boy;

he says: "My master's gone
to gather herbs.

I only know
he's on this mountain,

but the clouds are too deep
to know where."

---Chia Tao---

30 Jan 15, 06:32
This one has a commentary at the link:

Practice and Realisation are One


Once upon a time during the Tang Dynasty in China, there was a monk called Mazu Daoyi (Baso Doitsu, in Japanese) who was undergoing training. One day, he was practicing zazen alone when along came his teacher, Nanyue Huairang (Nangaku Ejo, in Japanese), who asked, “Brother, your zazen is truly admirable, but just what are you trying to accomplish by it?”

“I’m trying to bring about realization,” Mazu answered, and at this Nanyue fetched a tile and began rubbing it on a rock.

Mazu, seeing this and thinking it strange, asked, “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to polish it and make a mirror,” Nanyue responded.

When Mazu objected Nanyue retorted, “Even if you polish it you can’t make a mirror of a tile!”

“And do you think you can awaken realization by practicing zazen?”


Seiun An
10 Dec 15, 16:18
A Zen master had a beautiful young lady as his pupil. She became pregnant, and she falsely named her teacher as the father of her child. When the child was born, her family indignantly brought the child to the Zen master and accused him of taking advantage of his beautiful young pupil. His only reply was, "Ah-so." They left the child with the Zen master, who enjoyed caring for it and had many beautiful hours playing with the child. After about a year the young lady was very ill, and not wanting to die with this false accusation on her conscience, she told her family that the real father was a young man who lived in a nearby town. Her mother and father immediately went to the teacher and profoundly bowed and apologized and asked for the baby back. The Zen master gave them the baby and said, "Ah-so."

just had to search "Zen baby ah so" to find this version

15 Dec 15, 01:01
There are many but one of them is this:

"A Zen student came to Bankei and complained: 'Master, I have an ungovernable temper. How can I cure it?'
'You have something very strange' replied Bankei. 'Let me see what you have.'
'Just now I cannot show it to you,' replied the other.
'When can you show it to me?' asked Bankei.
'It arises unexpectedly,' replied the student.
'Then,' concluded Bankei 'it must not be your own true nature. If it were, you could show it to me at any time. When you were born you did not have it, and your parents did not give it to you.
Think that over.'"