2000 years of recorded Zen dialogues between Zen students and their teachers are often bizarre, cranky, weird, paradoxical and very often without any sense. They are in fact somewhat similar to Koans in their content and purpose that is “the awakening”. Zen literature is full of them. Here are some of them. They will be added periodically.
In the following: S= Student T = Teacher.
S: What is “enlightenment”? T: Can you see your own eyes without a mirror?
S: When does enlightenment occurs? T: When you unplug your mind?
S: I went to my teacher with nothing and left with nothing. Someone asked: Why bother to go to your teacher then? The student replied: How would I know otherwise that I went with nothing and came away with nothing?
S: How do I know that I am meditating well? T: When you meditate. S: I don’t get it. T: There is no good or bad meditation. Zen is not dualistic.
S: Master, what is happening after death? Is there reincarnation? T: I don’t know…I am not dead yet.
S: I want to find my inner Truth. Can you help me Master? T: Do not seek truth, only cease to cherish your opinions.
S: I am a well-known scholar and my knowledge is vast but I want to know about Zen; please teach me Teacher.
T: The expert mind is too full to accept anything new whereas for the beginner mind the possibility to learn is endless. Your mind is full like your cut of tea in front of you. I cannot fill up your cup of tea further unless you empty it first otherwise tea will overflow and be wasted. You have to clear up your mind in order to grasp my teaching.
S: I am very working hard Master but I am not progressing. I am very discouraged. What should I do? Please help me. T: Encourage others.
S: What is Matter? T: Never mind S: OK, so…what is mind? T: Does not matter.
S: I have a stupid question: what… T: He who asks a question can be a fool for one minute. He who never asks is a fool forever.
S: My legs are hurting too much when I meditate cross leg; what should I do Teacher? T: Meditate on the pain.
S: Teacher please tells me what is Wisdom? T: The quieter our mind is the more we can listen to others. The more we listen the more we understand that we do not know too much. The more we don’t know the quieter our mind becomes. Quiet mind brings serenity. Serenity brings understanding of what is real and what is not; understanding of what is good and what is not; of what we can control and what we cannot. This is the circle of wisdom.
S: Teacher, I am very slow in my learning and would like to progress faster; please help me. T: Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished perfectly.
S: What is Buddha main teaching? T: Did you wash the dishes last night?
Two Zen monks are walking toward their monastery 15 miles away. It is twelve noon. On the bank of a river to be crossed they see a beautiful woman afraid to walk across. The older monk tells the woman:“ Don’t worry I will carry you across”. The younger monk is quite upset:“ It is forbidden, we cannot touch a woman”! The elder does it anyway and they resume their walk without talking. At sun set they arrive at destination. “ I cannot believe that you carried this woman said the young monk still very upset”. The other one replied “ I carried her for five minutes but you are still carrying her for the last 6 hours.”
S: Teacher when I will find my Buddha Mind? T: Quite easy: get your sword and cut your head off.
S: Who is Buddha? T: Dry shit on a stick.
S: How can I stop thinking while meditating? T: When you are dead.
S: My life is too frustrating…I feel like being in jail…please help me Teacher. T: Who puts you in Jail? S: No one! T: Then only your mind is in jail. …S: OK…O.K. is not funny…. What should I do with my mind? T: Kill it! S: How? T: Keep a “don’t think” mind. A mind without preconceived ideas, concepts, opinions and thoughts is a free mind.
S: What is Zen…teacher? The teacher is hitting the ground very hard with his hand: “Did you hear the sound I made? He asked. S: Yes. T: This is Zen: your True Nature heard the sound – No thinking – no idea- no concept- just experience- this is Zen.
S: What is Zen teacher? T: Someone who tries to show you the direction where the mind is clear, the thoughts and our detrimental ego-self has been minimized.
Story on 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 could no longer 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 up?”
S: What is Zen practice? T: To practice Zen means to realize one’s existence moment after moment, rather than letting life unravel in regret of the past and daydreaming of the future. To “rest in the present” is a state of magical simplicity. Out of the emptiness can come a true insight into our natural harmony all creation. To travel this path, one needs not be a ‘Zen Buddhist’, which is only another idea to be discarded like ‘enlightenment,’ and like ‘the Buddha’ and like ‘God.”
S: What is Zen? T: (Suzuki)“Zen is not some fancy, special art of living. Our teaching is just to live, always in reality, in its exact sense. To make our effort, moment after moment, is our way. In an exact sense, the only thing we actually can study in our life is that on which we are working in each moment. We cannot even study Buddha’s words.”
S: You said that I am living like a zombie! T: (Thich Nhat Hanh) Some people live as though they are already dead. There are people moving around us who are consumed by their past, terrified of their future, and stuck in their anger and jealousy. They are not alive; they are just walking corpses.”
Ven. Ji Gong Sunim.