Issue nº 34

An encounter at the Dentsu Gallery |  Japanese stories of masters and disciples

Japanese stories of masters and disciples

The master is like bell

     A student who had recently arrived at the monastery, went to master Nokami and asked him how he should prepare for the exercise of meditation.
     "Do not be afraid to ask" - was the reply.
     "And how can I learn to ask?"
     "A master is like a bell. If you strike it lightly, all you will heard is a gentle vibration. But if you bang it freely, it will resonate loudly and shake you to the depths of your soul. Ask with courage, and only stop when you obtain the answer you sought."

No one changes destiny

     Before a decisive battle, the Japanese general decided to take the initiative and attack, knowing that the enemy was greater in number. Although he was sure of his strategy, his men were fearful.
     On the way to the confrontation, they decided to stop at a temple. After praying, the general turned to his soldiers:
     - I will toss this coin. If it is heads, we return to camp. If it is tails, that means that the gods will protect us, and we shall defeat the enemy. Now, our future will be revealed.
     He threw the coin high up, and the eyes of his anxious soldiers saw the result: tails. They all rejoiced, and as they attacked were filled with confidence and vigor, and were able to celebrate victory later that afternoon.
     His chief officer said proudly:
     - The gods are always right. No one can change the destiny they reveal.
     - You are right, no one can change destiny when we are resolved to follow it. The gods help us, but at times we must help them too. - he replied, handing the officer the coin.
     Both sides were tails.

Emptying the cup

     A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master in Kyoto, in search of knowledge. While the monk served tea, the professor commented exercises, analyzed writings, interpreted stories and traditions, and deliberated on the ancient processes of meditation. He did everything to impress his host, in the hopes that he might be accepted as a disciple.
     As he spoke, the monk continued to fill his cup, until it overflowed, and tea began to flow across the whole table.
     - What are you doing? Can't you see the cup is full, and that nothing more will fit in it?
     - Your soul is like this cup - replied the master. - How can I teach you the true art of Zen Buddhism, if it is already filled with theories?

Who is the most powerful master

     One of Yu's disciples was talking to a disciple of Rinzai:
     - My master is a man capable of doing miracles, that is why he is respected by all his pupils. I have seen him do things far beyond our capabilities. And your master? What great miracles can he do?
     - My master's greatest miracle is that he doesn't need to display any great wonder, in order to show his pupils that he is a wise man - was the reply.

Issue nº34