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Zen Koans By Bruce Marcot

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Dialogues

Pupil: How do I achieve absolute silence, complete calm?

Master: When I cup my ears like so, I hear the wind.

Hiker: Why do you go without shoes? Do not your feet give you pain in this snow?

Monk: My feet give me pain in this snow.

Pupil: Where is the source of all silence?

Master: Keep talking.

The master climbed a fruit tree and began eating an apple from the topmost branch, swaying precariously in the wind.

Pupil, from below: Why have you risked your safety to eat from that apple? Is it the sweetest because it is the highest?

Master: There is no other fruit on the tree.

A monk met an old friend he had not seen for many years. The friend chided him for having aged and lost his hair. The monk replied, “It was never there, my young friend.”

Pupil (concerned): Master! How did you get the bruise on your forehead?

Master (laughing): Turning too quickly, I hit my own head!

A monk returned from a walking meditation in the forest holding a dead raccoon in his arms. A pupil came out to greet him, saying “Where is the life of this creature?”

The monk handed him the raccoon.

Pupil: Master, if Tao is the way, but the way has no name, why do we call it Tao?

Master: Tao.


The Way (haiku in traditional 5-7-5 format)

Geese, honking in flight,

Sliding on invisible

Threads, the lunar way.


Was the flower closed

Or open? I looked again

And then it was gone.


I am young, then old,

And always growing older,

Same age as never.


Stories

On a terribly frigid night on a high rocky mountain pass, with only a thin blanket for cover, a monk sat alone, meditating. The wind rose and fell, rose and fell, chilling the very marrow of his bones. Overhead, vast night clouds silently sailed by, their edges lit by a waning moon which appeared and then vanished into a deep blackness.

The monk threw off his blanket, hurled it into the sky, and the lotus bloomed.

The master walked the meadow path backward to watch where he came from growing before him.

A young monk sat by the river, playing with a set of matryoshka dolls – the Russian dolls-within-dolls – opening each one to find yet another, smaller one, within. At the center, he removed the last doll, opened it, and it was empty. He dropped it into the swiftly flowing river. At that moment he reached enlightenment.


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