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《Chinese Tales for Everyone: Zen Tales_5 and 6 from 禪公案集》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Zen Tales
(5)
Go to Drink Tea

A man journeyed a long way to visit Master Zhao Zho (趙州) in his mountain temple. He was determined to learn from the famous monk the way of Zen. His name was Yi Kai. (一開)

On hearing the visitor’s intention, Zhao Zho asked: “Have you had rice congee today?”

“Yes, Sir, I have.” The visitor replied.

“Then, you go to the kitchen to wash your bowl.”

The visitor wondered what was going on. But he had a very high respect for the Zen master. He settled down to wait.

Some days later he saw another visitor approached Master Zhao expressing his wish to learn. The latter ordered: “Go to drink tea.”

Days passed. Yi Kai saw a succession of students arriving at the temple with the same wish. Some of them were past students. But, Master Zhao repeated the same order, and went about doing his own things, like sweeping clean the yard and taking a noon nap.

One evening, Yi Kai went to bed early. He was bored. He woke up at mid-night very excited, sweating like a fish. In a dream, he was struck by a thunder bolt which brightened his mind. He finally realized that Zen was an ordinary daily matter, like eating and washing dishes. One recognizes responsibility and purpose and values as one goes about taking care of self and others, including the environment. Such strives make a person feel useful and happy. He cried out: “I understand now!” and woke up.

The next morning he gathered his luggage and bowed to his teacher before leaving the temple.

Master Zhao said: “Mind your steps.”

Yi Kai bowed again and replied: “I will. I know.”

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Note: This is an English rewrite of an allegory in the Buddhist Open Files 禪公案集. The original title of the case 吃茶去tells us that Zen is but experiences in daily life when we recognize the order of the universe and the beauty of being alive. Zen is taking part in daily life with a sensitive awareness of self and others, including the environment.
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Zen Tales

(6)A Mother’s Last Letter

Monk Yi Xiu (一休) was a Japanese prince in ancient Japan. His mother who was the Queen decided to become a nun in the Buddhist monastery just a few months after his birth. Thus, he studied Buddhism since he was a child.

The mother died when Yi Xiu became an adult. She left him a letter before she passed away.

It said, “Dear Yi Xiu, I have finally completed my work in life. I am now on my way back to the eternal sphere. I hope you will keep on studying and understand your own Buddhist nature. In this way, you will know if I am bound for hell, or be with you forever.

If you are what I had hoped you to be, a true man, if you knew all Buddha’s are your servants, then, you can put down all the sutras and do your best to serve humanity. Our beloved Buddha spent 49 years to teach and inspire people in the world. He did not discover a word to represent the truth. You should know why it was so. If you do not understand and still wish to, you should stop wasting time to do imagination.

Mother, a body not born nor die.

P.S. The purpose of Buddha was to inspire all human beings. If you rely on the method he had used, then you are a foolish man. There are 8000 plus volumes of Buddhist sutras. If you had read all of them and still do not know your own nature, then you will not understand this letter either. These are my last words for you. ”

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Note: This is an English rendition of a chapter of the book禪公案集of ancient Japan. It shows the lingering love of a mother to her son. It also explained the essence of Zen, the confirmation of the independent nature of man and his search for enlightenment. It also shows that Buddha was but an ordinary man with a wish to enlighten human beings. He was no supernatural god.

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