Sometimes a story can teach much more than entire philosophical treatises.
Religions and spiritual traditions from all over the world have used storytelling as a medium to convey their messages of wisdom.
One such religion is Buddhism, which for centuries has used parables, anecdotes, fables and tales to help spiritual seekers expand their consciousness by offering them enlightening insights and moral life lessons. This culminates in Zen Buddhism, a tradition famous for using short stories generously to help Buddhist disciples develop a deeper as well as spherical understanding of reality.
In this post, I’ve collected some of my favorite short Zen stories, translated in English by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki. Some of them are easy to understand, while others need more time and effort to ponder on, but all of them are profoundly meaningful. Whether you’re Buddhist or not, I hope they’ll assist you in your journey to peace and contentment.
Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing in it to steal.
Ryokan returned and caught him. “You may have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you shoud not return emptyhanded. Please take my clothes as a gift.”
The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.
Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.”