Taoist Stories

Story 1

This particular story tells of a young man who wished to attend Zen sesshin. Having a friend who already did so, he asked could his friend mention to the roshi that he would like to attend. His friend agreed, but warned him, 'If the roshi agrees to meet you, for goodness sake be careful that you do not appear to think that you know too much. The roshi is really very kind, but he believes very much that we should not boast of what we know. He told a story once of an ancient teacher interviewing a new student for the first time. Well, it seems that the student kept boasting of what he already knew, but the teacher ignored his boasting, and asked the student if he would like a cup of tea. The student held the cup, and the old teacher began to pour some tea into it.......but the student kept on boasting. The more the student boasted, the more tea was poured, until it overflowed onto the student's lap. He shouted out for the teacher to stop, and the old man did so, but said,

"When the cup is full, behold, no room for more.

So if, this mystic wisdom, you would sup,

ensure that you come hither with an empty cup."

The young man laughed at the story, and thanked his friend for the warning, assuring him that he would remember it. When the time came for him to meet the teacher, he presented himself. Bowing deeply, he said,

"Behold master, my cup is empty."

To his surprise, the teacher shook his head sadly, and said to him,

"Oh dear. You'd best go away, and come back

when you've learnt some manners."

When the young man next saw his friend, he complained at the treatment he had received, and told him exactly what had happened. His friend replied,

"That's a real pity, but you can't say that I didn't warn you."


Story 2

"A master and his student stood beside a rock. 'I say that rock exists', the master said. The student did reply, 'And I say it does not, for the picture that we see of things perceived, is only in the mind.' The master then said, 'Right, take off you shoe and kick that rock which isn't there. The student laughed and made reply, 'No thanks, what of the pain which will result?' 'How can there be a pain within the toe, from kicking nothing?' his teacher asked. 'No pain within the toe,' the student did respond, 'for, as you have taught me, the pain is in the mind.' The master then, without ado, stamped upon the student's toe. He lifted up his injured foot, and danced about. The master asked, 'And if the pain is in the head, why do you hold your toe?' The student turned to answer him, and, in turning, tripped upon the rock."


Story 3

Two Buddhist monks were walking along a country road together in meditation. They belonged to a contemplative, celibate order, which means that no unnecessary talk should take place, and that the monks (and nuns) should not have physical contact with members of the opposite sex.

As the two monks approached a stream which crossed the road, they saw a beautiful young lady trying to ford the stream. She was wearing a kimono, which was obviously new and expensive, and the monks saw that she was encountering considerable difficulties, since every time she placed her foot in the shallow stream, the hem of her kimono would be threatened by its muddy waters.

As they approached the young lady, one of the monks ignored her, but the second monk picked her up in his arms and carried her across the stream, depositing her on the furthest bank. The two monks resumed their silent stroll for some three miles or so, when the first monk suddenly said to the second,

"You shouldn't have done that!"

"Done what?" asked the second monk.

"Picked up that woman" replied the first monk.

"What woman?" asked the second monk.

"That woman you picked up and carried across the stream!" said the first monk angrily.

"Oh, that woman", replied the second monk, "I put her down three miles back."