Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself.
“It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit.
"Such bad luck," they said sympathetically.
"We'll see," the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses.
"How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.
"We'll see," replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
"We'll see," answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
"We'll see" said the farmer.
A martial arts student went to his teacher and said earnestly, "I am devoted to studying your martial system. How long will it take me to master it."
The teacher's reply was casual, "Ten years."
Impatiently, the student answered, "But I want to master it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice everyday, ten or more hours a day if I have to. How long will it take then?"
The teacher thought for a moment, "20 years."
A beautiful girl in the village was pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who was the father. At first resistant to confess, the anxious and embarrassed girl finally pointed to Hakuin, the Zen master whom everyone previously revered for living such a pure life. When the outraged parents confronted Hakuin with their daughter's accusation, he simply replied "Is that so?"
When the child was born, the parents brought it to the Hakuin, who now was viewed as a pariah by the whole village. They demanded that he take care of the child since it was his responsibility. "Is that so?" Hakuin said calmly as he accepted the child.
For many months he took very good care of the child until the daughter could no longer withstand the lie she had told. She confessed that the real father was a young man in the village whom she had tried to protect. The parents immediately went to Hakuin to see if he would return the baby. With profuse apologies they explained what had happened. "Is that so?" Hakuin said as he handed them the child.
Two zen monks were travelling. They came to a ford of a stream that was running high, and the current was strong and frightening looking.
An attractive young lady was standing at the ford, looking nervous. She clearly was afraid to cross, but had an important reason to go.
Without a word, the older of the two monks lifted her in his arms and waded across the stream, and placed her safely on the far bank.
The younger monk looked shocked at this action, but kept his silence for quite some number of miles as they continued their journey.
Finally, he blurted out "You know that it is against the rules of our order to have any contact with women. How could you do that?".
The older monk replied "I put her down when I reached the other side of the river. You, on the other hand, have been carrying her this whole way."
The son of a master thief asked his father to teach him the secrets of the trade.
The old thief agreed and that night took his son to burglarize a large house.
While the family was asleep, he silently led his young apprentice into a room that contained a clothes closet. The father told his son to go into the closet to pick out some clothes. When he did, his father quickly shut the door and locked him in.
Then he went back outside, knocked loudly on the front door, thereby waking the family, and quickly slipped away before anyone saw him.
Hours later, his son returned home, bedraggled and exhausted. "Father," he cried angrily, "Why did you lock me in that closet? If I hadn't been made desperate by my fear of getting caught, I never would have escaped. It took all my ingenuity to get out!"
The old thief smiled. "Son, you have had your first lesson in the art of burglary."
An emperor in the Far East was growing old and knew it was time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or his children, he decided something different. He called young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, "It is time for me to step down and choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you." The kids were shocked!
But the emperor continued. "I am going to give each one of you a seed today. One very special seed. I want you to plant the seed, water it and come back here after one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next emperor!"
One boy named Ling was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his mother the story. She helped him get a pot and planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown. After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. 3 weeks, 4 weeks, 5 weeks went by. Still nothing. By now, others were talking about their plants but Ling didn't have a plant, and he felt like a failure. Six months went by, still nothing in Ling's pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn't say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow.A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But honest about what happened, Ling felt sick to his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace.
When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other youths. They were beautiful in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other kinds laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, "Hey nice try." When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. "What great plants, trees and flowers you have grown," said the emperor. "Today, one of you will be appointed the next emperor!"
All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. "The emperor knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!" When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. "My name is Ling," he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, "Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!"
Ling couldn't believe it. Ling couldn't even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor? Then the emperor said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds, which would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!"
If you plant honesty, you will reap trust.
If you plant goodness, you will reap friends.
If you plant humility, you will reap greatness.
If you plant perseverance, you will reap victory.
If you plant consideration, you will reap harmony.
If you plant hard work, you will reap success.
If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation.
If you plant openness, you will reap intimacy.
If you plant patience, you will reap improvements.
If you plant faith, you will reap miracles.
If you plant dishonesty, you will reap distrust.
If you plant selfishness, you will reap loneliness.
If you plant pride, you will reap destruction.
If you plant envy, you will reap trouble.
If you plant laziness, you will reap stagnation.
If you plant bitterness, you will reap isolation.
If you plant greed, you will reap loss.
If you plant gossip, you will reap enemies.
If you plant worries, you will reap wrinkles.
If you plant sin, you will reap guilt.
A student once asked his teacher,
"Master, what is enlightenment?"
The master replied,
"When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep."
Living by Intention I need to know that I exist. I cannot know what lies beyond the end of existence, and I refuse to let my attention be taken up by it. There is too much here and now to be lost if I focus my eyes far away. Each moment holds the possibility: do I do, with this moment, that which leads to my dreams? Or do I accept by default that which is laid out before me, without being formed by my decisions? Do I let uncertainty, fear of the disapproval of others, considerations of my 'dignity', the thought that I have never chosen this choice before, do I let these things dictate my way? Or do I say "NO!" to the inertia of habit and choose each moment's course to be the one that satisfies my highest vision of myself-as-I-choose-to-be?
To have new-born eyes, to see the vast imponderable majesty of perfection in a common leaf-pile, to be emboldened by a puddle on the sidewalk to live life with the joy and abandon of a perfect child; this is the goal I seek. To see ahead of me a climb into the perfection of the moments I have passed through, without wasting regret on any path I have not chosen, to be exactly where I want to be because I chose my steps to get here -- that is the high estate to which I aspire.
I say that you can choose this aliveness by deciding what to do at any moment on no other basis than this: is this what I, in my entire soul and heart, know to be the thing I should do next? You do not ask yourself questions to know this; it comes to you from your whole body, and takes less than an instant to know, or you do not know it. You will have to practice silencing the voices of your past - mercilessly, for they will have no mercy on you and deserve none from you - but then you will hear the voice of your true self. It will know what to do so well, so perfectly gracefully that in a moment you will have lived longer than your last year of living within the mundane bounds of society, and by living fully this way, you live forever within the stretch of your lifetime.