Zen Story: Perfection

Posted in on 3-25-13


Zen Story


There once lived a priest whose duty it was to tend the garden of a Zen temple.  The priest loved trees, bushes and flowers and took great pride in his work. A low wall separated the temple from another, smaller shrine next door, where an aged Zen master lived.

One day, the priest was told that  important guests were expected. Immediately, he set about tending the garden. He removed weeds, pruned tree branches and shrubs. He even combed the moss ! Since it was autumn, the ground was untidy with dry leaves which the priest painstakingly raked and arranged into neat mounds.

All this while, the old monk was watching him from across the wall. The priest finished with his labor of love. A look of satisfaction spread across his face. “Doesn’t it look beautiful now?” he said, turning to the monk.

“Indeed it does,” replied the monk, “but something’s not quite right. Here, give me a hand over this wall and I’ll fix it for you.”

Puzzled, the priest did as he was asked. The old master made his way slowly to a tree in the center of the garden, gripped its trunk and shook it hard. Leaves scattered down,  orange, russet and brown. “There…that’s better ! Now, can you help me back across the wall ?”

Perfection is….not always what you think it is!