A Cup of Tea
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?”
Zen Master Nan-in
The Two Tigers
One day, while walking through the wilderness, a man encountered a vicious tiger. He ran for his life, and the tiger gave chase.
The man came to the edge of a cliff, and the tiger was almost upon him. Having no choice, he held on to a vine with both hands and climbed down.
Halfway down the cliff, the man looked up and saw the tiger at the top, baring its fangs. He looked down and saw another tiger at the bottom, waiting for his arrival and roaring at him. He was caught between the two.
Two rats, one white and one black, showed up on the vine above him. As if he didn’t have enough to worry about, they started gnawing on the vine.
He knew that as the rats kept gnawing, they would reach a point when the vine would no longer be able to support his weight. It would break and he would fall. He tried to shoo the rats away, but they kept coming back.
At that moment, he noticed a strawberry growing on the face of the cliff, not far away from him. It looked plump and ripe. Holding onto the vine with one hand and reaching out with the other, he plucked it.
With a tiger above, another below, and two rats continuing to gnaw on his vine, the man tasted the strawberry and found it absolutely delicious.
The Gates of Paradise
A soldier named Nobushige came to Hakuin and asked: “Is there really a paradise and a hell?”
“Who are you?” inquired Hakuin.
“I am a samurai” the warrior replied.
“You, a soldier!” sneered Hakuin, “What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? You look like a beggar.”
Nobushige became so angry that he began to draw his sword.
Hakuin continued: “So you have a sword! Your weapon is probably to dull to cut off my head.”
Nobushige drew his sword.
Hakuin remarked: “Here open the gates of hell!”
At these words the samurai, perceiving the master’s discipline, put away his sword and bowed.
“Here open the gates of paradise”, said Hakuin.
Zen Master Hakuin