& Good Things to Bad People?
Here are some Zen Stories, and one by the Sufi Mulla Nasruddin, that shed some light on what we call good or bad.
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.
“Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“We’ll see,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.
“How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“We’ll see,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“We’ll see,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“We’ll see” said the farmer.
It Will Pass
A student went to his meditation teacher and said, “My meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I’m constantly falling asleep. It’s just horrible!”
“It will pass,” the teacher said matter-of-factly.
A week later, the student came back to his teacher. “My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It’s just wonderful!’
“It will pass,” the teacher replied matter-of-factly.
Anyone walking about Chinatowns in America will observe statues of a stout fellow carrying a linen sack. Chinese merchants call him Happy Chinaman or Laughing Buddha.
This Hotei lived in the T’ang dynasty. He had no desire to call himself a Zen master or to gather many disciples about him. Instead he walked the streets with a big sack into which he put gifts of fruit, candy or doughnuts. These he would give to children who gathered around him in play. He established a kindergarten of the streets.
Whenever he met a Zen devotee he would extend his hand and say: “Give me one penny.” And if anyone asked him to return to a temple to teach others, again he would reply: “Give me one penny.”
Once as he was about his play-work another Zen master happened along and inquired: “What is the significance of Zen?”
Hotei immediately plopped his sack down on the ground in silent answer.
“Then,” asked the other, “what is the actualization of Zen?”
At once Hotei swung the sack over his shoulder and continued on his way.
Is That So?
…This reminds me of a Zen story. There was a Zen Master who was very pure, very illumined. Near the place where he lived there happened to be a food store. The owner of the food store had a beautiful unmarried daughter. One day she was found with child. Her parents flew into a rage. They wanted to know the father, but she would not give them the name. After repeated scolding and harassment, she gave up and told them it was the Zen Master. The parents believed her. When the child was born they ran to the Zen Master, scolding him with foul tongue, and they left the infant with him. The Zen Master said, “Is that so.” This was his only comment.
He accepted the child. He started nourishing and taking care of the child. By this time his reputation had come to an end, and he was an object of mockery. Days ran into weeks, weeks into months and months into years. But there is something called conscience in our human life, and the young girl was tortured by her conscience. One day she finally disclosed to her parents the name of the child’s real father, a man who worked in a fish market. The parents again flew into a rage. At the same time, sorrow and humiliation tortured the household. They came running to the spiritual Master, begged his pardon, narrated the whole story and then took the child back. His only comment: “Is that so.”
By: Sri Chinmoy
From: The Oneness of the Eastern Heart and the Western Mind
Web Source: Yoga of Sri Chinmoy
Note: The Zen Master in this story is believed to be Hakuin.
God’s Will (retold by Mulla Nasruddin)
When I was no longer needed as a Mulla in the village, I moved to another region and found a convenient place outside a small town, on a hill. The view was fine, and the hill was as thick with thorns and burdock as a peace-loving soul could want.
I was very happy with the thorns, because they discouraged agriculture. In fact, they discouraged just about everything. No one bothered me.
Eventually, however, my beloveds, this changed. After a certain time, the townsfolk became curious. They wondered what I was doing up on that hill, coming down only for a few groceries once in a while, or maybe only to charge my cell phone. No, that was a different time.
Anyway, the people began to come up the hill, through the thorns, until they had made a path. That made it easier for me to get down to the town, which was convenient. It also made it easier for them to get up to me, which was not so convenient.
Somehow, the townsfolk came to view my silence and seclusion as marks of wisdom. And of course, whenever we admire something, we want to possess it. I once saw a small knoll covered with wild blueberries close by a pond. The blueberry plants turned red in the fall, and the glorious color was reflected in the pond. A family from a nearby town loved that blueberry field so much they decided to build a house there. They brought in excavators and heavy equipment, and tore out a large area on the top of the hill. The runoff washed away many of the berries, and they piled building debris on a particularly beautiful patch, so that by the time their house was finished, they wondered where their idyllic little scene had gone.
That was how I was afraid I would be. They would consider my seclusion to be admirable, so they would troop up to share it with me, until none of us was secluded any more. One day, something happened that let me know I could preserve my seclusion in the long run.
A group came to me, much distressed.
“All our roosters have died!” they cried. “What are we to do? We won’t wake up on time in the morning, and we won’t be able to raise broods of chicks to grow more chickens. How will we live?”
Knowing the old saying that not a leaf turns except by the will of Allah, I looked at them for a long time. Finally they demanded an answer.
“God’s will,” I said.
“God’s will?! Is that all you have to say? What good does that do us?” and they stalked down the hill, very dissatisfied. However, my peace didn’t last for long. Up they came again with a fresh calamity.
“All our fires have gone out!” they cried. “What will we do?”
“I suppose it wouldn’t help if I pointed out you have no roosters to cook anyway?” It didn’t help.
“What shall we do? We haven’t a live coal in the village, and the next village is far away.”
I looked at them and shrugged. “God’s will,” I said.
“We thought you’d say that,” they muttered, and stalked off down the hill, very annoyed. They were back sooner than I thought they would be.
“All our dogs have died!” they cried. “What other town is more unfortunate than ours? First our roosters, then our fires, now our dogs! Who will keep away wild animals, who will warn us of thieves?”
“Do you really have so many thieves?” I asked. They admitted nothing had ever been stolen in the town.
“I have only one thing to say, and I know you don’t want to hear it,” I said.
“We know…God’s will. That’s the last time we’ll ever ask YOU for advice,” they said, and stalked off down the hill, very annoyed. I hoped it was true.
But that very night, something occurred which I had been expecting. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I expected something. It was a little too much to have roosters, fires and dogs all die, all at once in the whole town. So I sat up and listened. Around midnight, when all was quiet in the town below, I heard the sound of a large number of armed men approaching. I crept to the top of the next hill for a better view. It’s a good thing I’m very stealthy, because their scout crept to the top of the same hill, and we almost bumped into one another. He gave a hand signal, and an army of several hundred men with shields and spears, bows and arrows, and walkie talkies…no that was another time. Anyway, this army poured up the hill and their general gave the signal for silence. He stood listening carefully, looking down at the town. After a little time he spoke.
“Well, men, we have had a good run of it, going from town to town, pillaging and burning, and gathering such treasures as we found.” There was a quiet clatter of spears and shields and shuffling of feet.
“But it looks as if our luck has run out. Where is the smoke from the fires? Where are the dogs barking? It’s almost daylight. Where are the roosters crowing? This village is abandoned. Let us move on.”
So they turned back down the hill, and went on their way. The next day a few villagers came to see me.
“Have you thought of any solutions to our problems?” they asked, “or are you going to say the same thing over and over?”
“You mean, God’s will?” They nodded. “Oh, I still believe it’s God’s will, but I have something to add. No matter how bad you think your problems are, they could always be worse. Be content with what befalls you. It is truly sent from Heaven.”
To this day, they don’t believe me.
What comes to mind after taking in these perspectives?