What Is More Sacred?

The master got caught in a heavy rain one night and was soaking wet when he saw a Buddhist monastery nearby. He knocked hard on the gates until a monk came and opened the gate.

“What do you want?” the monk asked, thinking that the drenched figure was a beggar.

“I just need a place to stay out of the rain,” said the master. “May I stay here for the night?”

“No, I’m sorry but this isn’t an inn,” said the monk.

“Please, let me just stay in the temple hall. I can sleep on the floor and be gone early in the morning,” said the master.

The monk considered this for a moment, and in a stern voice said, “Okay, but you better be out of here before the other monks come for their morning prayers.”

“Of course,” answered the master.

A few hours later, that same monk woke up earlier than usual to check and make sure that the unwanted guest would indeed leave early.

photo by topbanana
photo by topbanana

When he entered the temple area, he saw the master huddled on the floor with the dying embers of a small campfire by his side. The monk wondered where the man got wood for a fire when he suddenly saw an empty space where a wooden Buddha statue had once been. Horrified, the monk shook the master.

“Hey, you there! Wake up! What have you done? You burned the Buddha! You burned the Buddha!” cried the monk.

The master woke up and hearing the accusations of the angry monk, picked up his walking stick and sifted through the embers of the dying fire.

“Now what are you doing? Didn’t you hear me? You did a terrible thing! You burned the Buddha!” said the monk.

“What are you talking about?” said the master. “I don’t see the bones of this Buddha among the ashes. You must be a very bad monk, because you regard a lifeless statue as more sacred than a live person.”

Searching for the Truth

The disciple told the master, “I am going away to the town on the other side of the hill. There are less distractions there and I can focus on meditating and searching for the truth. But don’t worry, while I am there, I will write to you and let you know my progress.”

After a month, the master received a note which said, “I am now able to enter into deep meditation.”

The master shook his head and tore up the note.

After six months, he received another note which said, “I now know the secret of the Self and of Silence.”

The master sighed and threw the note away.

After a year, he received another note which said, “Now I understand the Path of Stones and the Song of the Forest.”

The master spat at the ground and threw the note into the fire.

Then, three years passed without the master receiving any note from the disciple. The master then learned that one of his friends was going over to that town so he asked him to look up the disciple to see how he was coming along in his quest.

The master’s friend came back two weeks later with a note that said, “Who cares?”

“He got it! He got it!” bellowed the master as he jumped up and down with glee.

Not One. Not Two.

photo by topbanana
photo by topbanana

“Why does it seem that the harder I seek God, the more distant he seems from me?” asked the disciple.

The master smiled and replied, “The distance seems to grow because you seek. Stop seeking and understand that there is no distance.”

“Are you saying that I and God are one?” said the disciple.

“No, not one. Not two,” said the master.

“I don’t understand,” said the disciple.

“The ocean and the wave; the dancer and the dance; the singer and the song; the lamp and its light. Not one. Not two.”

Holy Banana

photo courtesy of darotyka, sxc.hu
photo courtesy of darotyka, sxc.hu

There was once a master whose fame had spread far and wide because of his holiness.

A tourist once came and visited the master, who was seated behind a small table eating a banana. Upon seeing the guest, the master picked another banana from the bunch and offered it to him.

The guest was so awed that this great man would offer something to one as lowly and sinful as him. He left the master’s house with the uneaten banana still in his hands, and wondered aloud what he should do with such a holy gift.

Some of the master’s disciples heard the man and went to tell the master about the guest’s dilemma.

The master laughed and said, “Tell the silly fool to eat it.”

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