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Zen in Everything

Once upon a time, there was a wandering monk. He heard that Zen Master Wuxiang was excellently wise in Zen, so he paid a visit and wanted to have a debate about Zen. Unfortunately Zen Master Wuxiang happened to be out and a novice monk received him and said, “The Zen Master is out. What can I do for you?”

The wandering monk said, “Nothing. You are too young.”

The novice monk answered, “Young as I am, I have not a little wisdom.”

The wandering monk seemed quite interested. He drew a small circle in the air with his finger, and then pointed it forward. The novice monk reached out his hands and drew a big circle in the air. Then the wandering monk raised one finger, and the novice monk raised five. Again the wandering monk raised three and the novice monk pointed at his own eyes.

The wandering monk was so awed that he knelt down and saluted the novice monk with his head three times before he sheered off. The wandering monk thought to himself, “I just wanted to ask him how much his capacity would be by drawing a small circle in the air and pointing my finger forward. He said it was as enormous as the ocean by drawing that big circle. Then I wanted to know more about him by raising one finger. He meant he received and upheld the five precepts by showing me five fingers. Again I raised three fingers to ask him about the three worlds. He pointed at his eyes, saying the three worlds were already there in his eyes. Even a novice monk is so wise, then it must be much wiser of Zen Master Wuxiang in his cultivation. I had better leave. ”

Later, Zen Master Wuxiang came back. The novice monk told him everything and asked, “Master, I have no idea how the wandering monk got to know my family sell flatbread. He drew a small circle in the air with his finger, saying that the flatbread sold by my family is that small. I immediately reached out my hands to show him it is much bigger! Then he raised one finger to ask if one copper coin could buy one flatbread. I raised five to tell him five copper coins could do. He again raised three fingers to ask if three copper coins could do. I thought him too shameless, and I pointed at my eyes, blaming him for his invisibility to see the true value of the flatbread. Unexpectedly, he was terrified and fled.”

Hearing that, Zen Master Wuxiang said, “There is Dharma in everything. There is Zen in everything. Do you understand?”

The novice monk was confused.

Buddha Dharma gives emphasis to conditions and causes. Zen is all about conditions and causes. If you understand this, Zen can be found at all times and places, in everything and everyone. Otherwise, no matter how eloquent you are, there is nothing to do with Zen. In the history of Zen, Tea and Zen Master Zhaozhou and Flatbread and Zen Master Yunmen are both famous stories about Zen. As an old saying goes, the speaker says something unintentionally but the listener misinterprets and takes it seriously. That is why Zen Master Wuxiang said that there is Dharma in everything and there is Zen in everything. The Buddha Dharma is found in each and every law that orders the universe. For wise people, they can comprehend the Buddha Dharma through ordinary occurrences; for unwise people, they pay no attention and get them ignored.


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