Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Zen Shorts

It's not often that Nicholas will sit for more than a few minutes to read a book. We usually keep them short and simple, reading 2-3 small stories at bedtime.

The other night however, I took the opportunity to read him a longer story while he was in the mood to just listen. I couldn't tell you who enjoyed Zen Shorts more, him or I.

It's an adorable story about a large panda who tells his three neighbor children Zen stories. I've always found Zen and Taoist tales highly entertaining and enlightening.

I though I'd share a few of my favorites...

The Nature of Things

Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, "Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know it's nature is to sting?"
"Because," the monk replied, "to save it is my nature."


Two people are lost in the desert. They are dying from hunger and thirst.
Finally, they come to a high wall. On the other side they can hear the sound
of a waterfall and birds singing. Above, they can see the branches of a lush
tree extending over the top of the wall. Its fruit look delicious.
One of them manages to climb over the wall and disappears down the other side.
The other, instead, returns to the desert to help other lost travelers
find their way to the oasis.

The Stone Cutter

There was once a stone cutter who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life. One day he passed a wealthy merchant's house. Through the open gateway, he saw many fine possessions and important visitors. "How powerful that merchant must be!" thought the stone cutter. He became very envious and wished that he could be like the merchant. To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever imagined, but envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. Soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. "How powerful that official is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a high official!"

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around. It was a hot summer day, so the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. "How powerful the sun is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the sun!"

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. "How powerful that storm cloud is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a cloud!"

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. "How powerful it is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the wind!"

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, feared and hated by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it - a huge, towering rock. "How powerful that rock is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a rock!"

Then he became the rock, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the hard surface, and felt himself being changed. "What could be more powerful than I, the rock?" he thought.

He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stone cutter.



  1. It is a great book. Their uncle gave it to them last Christmas. We have not read it in a while. Thanks for the reminder. I know what we'll be reading tomorrow night.

  2. I LOVE these! I especially love the first one. How neat. I am going to have to go check it out!

  3. wow. those were really great. i think i will look for this book next time i'm at the mall for my son and i to read together.

    thanks for sharing this was GREAT.

    have a good day!


  4. hmmm... maybe I need to write this down, for future reference. :)

  5. Hi Jen- it is such a great book, isn't it?!!

    Hi Becky, Jennifer & Andrea! =)