Zen Stories


Zen Story Impermanence

A revered Zen teacher once approached the king’s palace late at night. The guards did not stop him as he made his way inside to where the king was seated upon his throne...Read more


Zen Story Perceptions

Chuang Tzu and his friend were walking along a river bank and stopped for a moment to gaze at the water... Read more


Zen Story Perfect Silence

Four pupils used to practice meditation in the time before Zen came to Japan. These close friends vowed to each other to observe silence for seven days... Read more


Zen Story Steal the moon

A Zen master, Ryokan, lived a life of simplicity in his hut near the mountains. When he was away one night, a thief broke in only to find nothing worth stealing... Read more


Zen Story: Anger Management

A Zen disciple approached his teacher. “Master, I have an uncontrollable temper. Can you help me overcome it?”.... Read more


Zen Story: Bankei’s Cure

The great master Bankei’s meditation classes attracted students from all over Japan. During one of these courses, a student was caught stealing. The incident was brought to Bankei’s notice... Read more


Zen Story: Cause and effect

There lived an old farmer who had worked on his fields for many, many years. One day, his horse bolted away. His neighbors dropped in to commiserate with him. “What awful luck,” they tut-tutted sympathetically, to which the farmer only replied, “We’ll see.”... Read more


Zen Story: Mind over Matter

An accomplished though conceited young archer once dared a Zen master famed for his prowess in archery, to a test of their skills. The youth’s proficiency was extraordinary. His first arrow found its target, a far off bull’s eye, with ease; with his next shot, he split the first arrow into two.... Read more


Zen Story: True Nature

An old man meditating by the riverside opened his eyes to see a scorpion flailing helplessly in the water. The water washed the scorpion nearer to a tree growing on the river bank. Supporting his body on one of the long roots stretching into the water, the old man extended his hand out to reach the creature... Read more


Zen Story: Enlightenment

An Emperor asked the old Zen master, “What happens to an enlightened man after death?” The master replied, “I would not know.”.... Read more


Zen Story: Walking on water

Three monks sat by a lake, deep in meditation. One stood up and said, “I’ve forgotten my mat.” Stepping on to the waters before him, he walked across to the other side, where their small hut stood... Read more


Zen Story: What’s the difference?

Zen master Ryokan was walking on the beach. A storm had just blown over. Hundreds of starfish had been washed up by the waves; they were beginning to die in the sharp sunlight. Ryokan picked up the starfish one by one and threw them back into the sea.... Read more


Zen Story: Ah! It’s So Sweet!

A man was walking across a field when he saw a tiger. Fearing for his life, the man fled, but the tiger gave chase. The man reached the edge of a cliff, and just as he thought the tiger would get him, he spotted a vine growing over the edge of the cliff. Grabbing on to it, he swung himself over the edge to safety.... Read more


Zen Story: Can You Make Me Obey You?

The great Zen Master, Bankei, was renowned for his talks. People of all sects and ranks came to listen to him because he spoke from his heart. Bankei was much-respected and his preaching was embraced by all.... Read more


Zen Story: Heads or Tails

It was an important battle. The Japanese general decided to launch an attack though his army was sadly outnumbered. Although he was confident of victory, his men were filled with apprehension.... Read more


Zen Story: Heaven & Hell

I want to know about heaven and hell,” said the samurai. “Do they really exist?” he asked Hakuin. Hakuin looked at the soldier and asked, “Who are you?”.... Read more


Zen Story: Carry On

Two Zen monks, Tanzan and Ekido, were traveling on a pilgrimage. It was raining heavily and the streets were muddy. As the two monks neared a bend, they saw a beautiful maiden, dressed in silk and finery, standing by the bend. Being unable to cross the muddy intersection, she stood there, staring forlornly at the road ahead... Read more


Zen Story: Multitasking

A student of martial arts had a query for his teacher. “I wish to improve my skills in martial arts. Besides studying under you, I think I should practice with another teacher as well, so as to learn another style.... Read more


Zen Story: Hidden Meanings

A young Zen student was on his way to buy vegetables at the market for his monastery. On the way, he encountered a student he had seen occasionally, from a monastery some distance from his own. “Where are you going?” he asked.... Read more


Zen Story: The Governor’s Card

In the city of Kyoto, there lived a great Zen master called Keichu. He was the head of Tofoku, a huge cathedral in the city. Keichu held sway over his jurisdiction and was well-respected for his astute perceptiveness.... Read more


Zen Story: Which Side?

A youthful monk, journeying home, reached the bank of a vast river. There were no visible means of crossing it. Standing there, he pondered for long on how he could get across. No ideas occurred to him;.... Read more


Zen Story: The Cat’s Head

Sozan, the Chinese Zen master known for his poetry and calligraphy, was about to start a talk with his students. Just then, a student asked him, “Teacher, what is the most valuable thing in the world?” Without any hesitation, Sozan responded, “A dead cat’s head.”... Read more


Zen Story: Wishful thinking

There once lived a stone cutter who was unhappy with his insignificant life. Passing by a rich merchant’s home one day, he was awed by its grandeur and the stream of visitors going in. “He must be a powerful man! How I wish I could be him”, he thought... Read more


Zen Story: Zen in a Note

Kakua was the first Japanese to imbibe Zen teaching in China, but few people know it was he who introduced Zen into his land because he revealed nothing – except one note! Here is his story:... Read more


Zen Story: Life’s Purpose in a Drop of Water

A Zen master asked a young student to bring him a pail of water to cool his bath. The student brought the water, and after cooling the bath, threw the remaining water over the ground... Read more


Zen Story: Real Power

During the countryside wars, a general swept from town to town, conquering each place with ease. In one particular town, the general discovered that everyone had fled just before his army arrived - everyone except the Zen master.... Read more


Zen Story: The Tea Warrior

On a mountain lived a famous tea master. His skill in this art was unsurpassed, and many came from faraway to sit at his tea house. One day an impatient samurai burned his tongue on the master’s green tea. Enraged, he challenged the master to a duel.... Read more


Zen Story – Great Waves

Long ago there lived a famous wrestler whose name meant “Great Waves.” He was massively strong and knew the art of wrestling. In private bouts he defeated even his teacher, yet in public was so bashful that even his students threw him down.... Read more


Zen Story: The Holy Man

Word spread across the country about the wise Holy Man who lived in a house atop the mountain. A young man from the village decided to undertake the difficult journey to visit him.When he arrived at the house, an old servant opened the door and greeted him.... Read more


Zen Story: Full Awareness

After ten years of study, a monk attained the rank of Zen Teacher. One rainy day soon after his advancement, he journeyed to visit his old Zen Master. When he walked into the house, the Master greeted him with a question.... Read more


Zen Story: Paradise

Two men wander the desert, hopelessly lost. Tired and thirsty, they ascend a large sand dune – only to discover a giant stone wall.... Read more


Zen Story: Perfection

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.... Read more


Zen Story: Practice

Thought: If we look at life as a circular path, a line without beginning or end, then we can learn to shift or focus away from the “final destination” at the end of the road and towards the gently curving slope of the absolute present moment.... Read more


Zen Story: The Stone Mind

The wise Zen teacher was walking on the mountain pass with one of his young students. The teacher kept silent while the student spoke the entire time of Zen and the mind. After some distance the two men reached a giant boulder.... Read more


Zen Story: The Warrior’s Question

A noble warrior went to the Zen temple seeking peace. Upon finding the master in calm meditation, the warrior was overcome with sadness. Though he knew he had fought bravely and justly his entire life, he feared that he would never possess the grace of the man before him.... Read more


Zen Story: Harmony

There is the story of a young martial arts student who was under the tutelage of a famous master.... Read more