Short Inspirational Zen Stories

Short Inspirational Zen Stories

Short Inspirational Zen Stories

The Shaolin Monk Story

One day a young man wanted to learn martial arts so he went to a Shaolin monastery and spent a year there. And on the first day everyone went to practise martial arts. But his master told him to go to a well and strike at the water. The young man was confused but he didn’t want to question his master. And so he went and started striking at the water. The next day, the same thing happened again. This went on day after day, weeks turning into months and finally at the end of the year, the man left and went back home disappointed. When the man returned home, the family had a big gathering to celebrate. And during dinner, one of the family members asked what he had learned during the one year. He was ashamed that he had learned nothing during the one year period. When everyone else learned martial arts, all he did was just striking water and in his anger and frustration he stood up and slammed his hand on the table. And when he struck the table, it broke into hundreds of pieces. And it was in that moment, that he realised what his master had taught him. Remember, small actions done consistently, can do wonders.

The Buddha and Arrow Story

One day, one of the Buddha’s disciples asked Buddha some big questions. He asked, “What happens after we die? And if God is real?” The Buddha was silent for a moment and then he said, “Imagine you’re walking in the forest by yourself and all of a sudden somebody shoots and arrow and it hits you. What would you do in this situation? Would you hurry to a nearby village to get help to patch the wound, stop the bleeding and save your life? Or would you stay still and wonder who shot the arrow? What was the arrow made of? How fast was the arrow traveling? What would you do?” And the disciple answered, “Well master, of course I would go to a nearby village to get help to stop the bleeding.” And the Buddha replied, “We not necessarily have all the responses to the mysteries of life but one thing we do know for certain, is that life has suffering. And unless we seek out the wisdom to heal our wounds, we will bleed to death wondering about things that we may never get an answer to.”

The Buddha and the Muddy Water

One day the Buddha was traveling with his disciples and it was a very hot day. So they decided to take a break near a lake and get some water to drink. When one of his disciples went to fetch the water, he noticed that the water was very murky due to some recent disturbance. He came back to the Buddha and reported the news to him. And the Buddha said, “Just wait one hour and go back to the same lake.” And on the second time, the disciple saw the water had become completely clear. And he came back to the Buddha in a joyous mood with some drinking water. And the Buddha asked, “How did you manage to tackle the problem of the muddy water? You did nothing. You just waited and the water cleared on its own. Just like the muddy water that is unsuitable that is unsuitable for consumption, so is a disturbed mind unsuitable for usage. Even the muddiest water will get clear with time. And so even the most disturbed mind will return to its calm state with time.

Empty Your Cup Story

One day a powerful and wealthy man went to visit a Zen temple. He heard rumours about a Zen master who was said to be the wisest man in the land. Upon meeting the master, the man said, “Teach me about Zen.” The Zen Master smiled and said, “Let’s have this conversation over a cup of tea.” And so the Zen master started pouring out tea. He filled up the man’s cup but he continued to pour. He kept pouring and pouring and the tea spilled all over the place. The man said, “Enough! Stop! Can’t you see you’re spilling the tea everywhere?” And the Zen master said, “You see, that’s like your mind. In order to learn about Zen, you first need to empty your mind just like this cup.” The lesson here is that all of us have preconceived ideas about the things that we want to learn. True wisdom is understanding that you actually no nothing. In order to grasp something, to learn something new, we first need to open our hands, we first need to open our minds and we first need to let go.

The Buddha and the Boy Seeking for Happiness

Samir, a young lad known for his mischievous nature and love for adventure, heard fascinating stories about a wise and enlightened person called the Buddha. The Buddha resided in a nearby monastery, which piqued Samir’s curiosity. Eager to explore, he embarked on a long expedition through forests, valleys, and mountains to reach the revered monastery. Approaching the Buddha with respect, Samir asked, “Honourable Master, how can one find true happiness?” The Buddha smiled gently and replied, “Ah, happiness, my young friend, cannot be found externally. It lies within oneself. True contentment is discovered by letting go of desires and attachments.” Perplexed, Samir further inquired, “But how can I give up desires when they bring me joy?” The Buddha, radiating wisdom, explained that desires are like unquenchable flames that consume us. They create an insatiable hunger that can never be satisfied. True happiness comes from understanding the impermanence of things and realizing that genuine joy blossoms from within. Deep in thought, Samir gradually grasped the profound truth behind the Buddha’s teachings. The moral of the story is that true happiness comes from within and not from external possessions or desires. When we learn to let go of our attachments and find contentment in the present moment, we can experience lasting joy and peace.

Flow with life’s current – The Two Monks

Two monks were walking along a path when they came to a river. The river was swollen with rain and the current was strong. One monk decided to take off his clothes and wade across the river. The other monk watched in amazement. “Why are you taking off your clothes?” he asked. “You don’t know to swim.” The first monk said, “I don’t need to swim. “I’m going to cross the river on foot.” The second monk didn’t understand. “But how can you do that?” he asked, “The current is too strong.” “I don’t need to fight the current,” the first monk said. “I will simply let it carry me.” The second monk watched as the first monk stepped into the river and let the current carry him across. When the first monk reached the other side, he turned to the second monk and said, “It is the same with life. If we try to fight against the current, we will only struggle. But if we let go and let the current carry us, we will reach our destination. What did this story teach you? 

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