Zen Monk Stories  -- J. Frey‑‑October 1988





Three great Zen masters‑‑Baso, Lak‑Li, and Dan‑‑were sitting around a table eating their breakfast.  The first one poured tea for the other two, and then the table sort of stretched its legs and walked out into the garden.  Not one of the three even cracked a smile.




A Zen master whose name has remained undiscovered was asked to describe his perfect woman.  He said: "If she does not have a stern look in her eyes then she is as a fish in a much, much larger school of fish."

The answer failed to satisfy many of his followers, many of whom were accustomed to being waited on by female servants.




A Zen nun was asked to describe her ideal man.  She said: "Well, he probably shouldn't look too much like the Buddha...Ha. Ha. Ha...No, but seriously..."




"It is easy to be alone in a crowded room," said the good monk Warner in a moment of sadhana enlightenment in the hot tub of one of his good friends, Irene.  "The trick is to be crowded in an empty one."




The knowledge seeker from Kyolorado was beset by myriad allergies in his new assignment at the temple on Mt. Fang‑A.  He could not breathe at night and so stayed up carving wise words into the table in the garden:  "A stuffy nose is as a table with only three legs.  You are never quite sure if you are going to be able to count on it."




A holy man named Fells‑Tart was making a big splash in the province of NAh‑PAh by offering a quick, cheap form of enlightenment to his followers.

"Fools! It's obvious!" He would berate the knowledge seekers who came to his house. "If you wish to be enlightened, be enlightened!  Just do it!"  And then he would give each student a big thwack on the head with a leafy branch pulled from the yew tree out back.

This seemed to work.  The students would come away from his house with a confused sneer that could pass as enlightenment in certain circles and most dark singles bars.

Fells‑Tart was later discredited by a visiting holy man named Wilson, who told him in front of a crowd of Zen monks:

"Stop talking so much.  Just do it!"




The Zen economist stopped for tea in the cafe.

"What represents the primary conflict of meanings?" asked the young countergirl.

"Fifteen‑cent tip," said the economist, leaving a dime and a nickel in the cup.




The dreams of a monk are to be dutifully recorded in the ledgers of the temple as a map of his progress in the unconscious realm.  Especially important are the dreams that come as a result of a great fever, since sickness is still associated with the spirit realms, besides being a great way to hallucinate cheaply.  A Zen monk named En‑Rout recorded this fever‑based dream:

"I am in a kitchen, making tossed, green salad for a group of large men in helmets outside.  Their leader, not wearing helmet, but in turf‑green shorts, comes in to hurry me up.  He blows his whistle frantically and makes waving gestures with a plank of wood that has a sheaf of papers clipped to it.  Then I am in the salad bowl, flying in between two upright metal posts on my way to the south bleachers.  The word 'REDSKINS' looms larger and larger."

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