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Cutting off Ears to Save a Pheasant

Zen Master Zhishun in Tang Dynasty constantly went to different places to understand Zen. One day, he was sitting in meditation in a wood on the hill. A hunter shot and hit a pheasant, which was wounded but ran away towards him. With his sleeve, Zen Master Zhishun covered the poor little thing who had just escaped from death. Soon the hunter came and asked the Zen Master for the pheasant: “Please return to me the pheasant I shot!”

The Zen Master counseled and enlightened the hunter with infinite mercy: “It is, after all, a life. Let it go!”

“You should know that this pheasant can be one delicious dish.”

The hunter kept arguing with the Zen Master in order to get the pheasant back. In the end, without any choice, the Zen Master, picking up the knife of a Buddhist monk, cut off his ears, gave them to the hunter, and then said, “Are two ears equal to your pheasant? You can make a dish out of them.”

Greatly shocked, the hunter finally realized that hunting and killing were the most brutal. He was so repentant of what he did.

To save a life, Zen Master Zhishun was willing to hurt his own body. The Dharma was called “helping all living creatures to get rid of misery only, but not pursuing personal safety and happiness”, and it is a vivid manifestation of Zen Master Zhishun’s mercy. Those who practice Zen do not escape from the society or detach themselves from general people. Their practice of sacrificing themselves to save others can be seen from the story of Zen Master Zhishun who cut off ears to save a pheasant.

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