5 Zen Short Stories with Profound Life Lessons

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At Soulful Arogya, we love Zen stories and the immense wisdom they have to offer.

These stories often provide insight into human nature and impart crucial life lessons. The stories contain humor and are generally light-hearted, but at the same time paradoxical and pensive.

Here we have a selection of 5 such Zen short stories which we hope you’ll enjoy just as much as we did.

1) The Awakening of Buddha

It is said that soon after his enlightenment the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the Buddha’s extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence.

The man stopped and asked, “My friend, what are you? Are you a celestial being or a god?”

“No,” said the Buddha.

“Well, then, are you some kind of magician or wizard?”

Again the Buddha answered, “No.”

“Are you a man?”

“No.”

“Well, my friend, what then are you?”

The Buddha replied, “I am awake.”

2) Chasing Rabbits

Zen Short Stories

A martial arts student approached his teacher with a question.

“I’d like to improve my knowledge of the martial arts. In addition to learning from you, I’d like to study with another teacher in order to learn another style. What do you think of this idea?”

“The hunter who chases two rabbits,” answered the master, “catches neither one.”

3) Time Needed to Learn Zen

Time Needed to Learn Zen - Zen Short Stories That Will Ease Your Soul

A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master: “If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to find Zen?”

The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.”

The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast. How long then?”

“Well, twenty years,” replied the master.

“But, if I really, really work at it. How long then?” asked the student.

“Thirty years,” replied the master.

“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?”

The master replied, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

4) Seeing and Unseeing

Seeing and Unseeing: A Zen Story

According to The Platform Sutra, Shen Hui asked the Sixth Patriarch: “When you sit in meditation, High Master, do you see or not?”

The Master hit him three times with his stick and asked: “When I hit you, does it hurt or not?”

“It both does and does not hurt.”

“I both see and do not see.”

“How can you both see and not see?”

The Master said: “What I see are the waverings and wanderings of my own mind. What I do not see is the right and wrong and good and bad of other people. This is my seeing and not seeing.”

5) The Holy Man

The Holy Man - Zen Short Stories

Word spread across the countryside about the wise Holy Man who lived in a small house atop the mountain. A man from the village decided to make the long and difficult journey to visit him. When he arrived at the house, he saw an old servant inside who greeting him at the door.

“I would like to see the wise Holy Man,” he said to the servant.

The servant smiled and led him inside. As they walked through the house, the man from the village looked eagerly around the house, anticipating his encounter with the Holy Man. Before he knew it, he had been led to the back door and escorted outside.

He stopped and turned to the servant, “But I want to see the Holy Man!”

“You already have,” said the old man.

“Everyone you may meet in life, even if they appear plain and insignificant… see each of them as a wise Holy Man. If you do this, then whatever problem you brought here today will be solved.”

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