A famous beggar sheds his robe

When the the 14th-century Japanese monk and poet Ikkyu had achieved some fame a few wealthy patrons invited him to a banquet. Ikkyu arrived at the place of the banquet dressed in his usual beggar's robes. The host, not recognizing him, chased him away.Ikkyu went home, changed into his ceremonial robe of purple brocade, and returned. With great respect, this time he was received into the banquet room.…

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A 6-year old offers his life

AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD GIRL BECAME ILL and was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood disease. She needed a transfusion, but her blood type was rare. A search went out for a donor. With every passing day, the little girl weakened, and still no donor was found. Then it was discovered that her six-year-old brother shared her rare blood type. The mother, along with their minister and doctor, sat down with…

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The wilderness inside

The interior life is a place of the wild – uncivilized and unpredictable, giving us fevers, symptoms, and moments of beauty. Yet within the appearance of chaos is both a richness and deep level of orderliness. Like a national park the interior world does not do anything--it is the treasure-house of life. It can’t be strip-mined for our conscious purposes, the only request it makes of us is…

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He liked to fish with a needle

There was a fisherman in ancient China who for forty years used a straight needle to fish with. When someone asked him, “Why don’t you use a bent hook, like everyone else?” The fisherman replied, “You can catch ordinary fish with a bent hook, but I will catch a great fish with my straight needle.” Word of this came to the ear of the Emperor, so he went…

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Let’s talk about the flapping flag

ONE WINDY day two monks were arguing about a flapping banner. The first said, "I say the banner is moving, not the wind." The second said, "I say the wind is moving, not the banner.' A third monk passing by disagreed. "The wind is not moving. The banner is not moving. It is your minds that are moving."

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Zen warrior meets the pandemic

The Zen Warrior is different from what we think of as a common warrior. He or she knows that to defeat the enemy is to disengage, to distance, to separate. The Zen Warrior is like the invisible man—not to be seen, or heard, fighting with a bewildering challenge: “Try to find me.”I see a town with many doors, all closed. The Infectious Agent is going house to house,…

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As he lay dying

A Zen monk named Ichhi labored his whole life in the kitchen of the great monastery at Lake Hakkone. He deemed himself a failed monk because he had been assigned the koan of "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" since his earliest days in the congregation and had never been able to solve it. It was now 55 years of failure, and he was nearing the…

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To save his sister

AN EIGHT-YEAR-OLD GIRL BECAME ILL and was diagnosed with a life-threatening blood disease. She needed a transfusion, but her blood type was rare. A search went out for a donor. With every passing day, the little girl weakened, and still no donor was found. Then it was discovered that her six-year-old brother shared her rare blood type. The mother, along with their minister and doctor, sat down with…

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The sound of one hand clapping

MAMIYA was a worldly man, but he thought he ought to study Zen. So he went to a great teacher, who told him to concentrate on the famous koan: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Mamiya went away, and came back a week later, shaking his head. He could not get it. “Get out!” said the master. “You are not trying hard enough. You still think of money and food…

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The Power of Silence

We spend a lot of time looking for happiness when the world right around us is full of wonder. To be alive and walk on the Earth is a miracle, and yet most of us are running as if there were some better place to get to. There is beauty calling to us every day, every hour, but we are rarely in a position to listen. The basic…

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