Zen Story: The Zen student's understanding was not the Zen master's understanding

The old Zen master, Frepi Zendoche, had two students, who he used to give the same task to.

(The old master did look a bit old and eccentric, but his mind had a greater understanding than most other minds)

He wanted to see how each would react to his asks.

So one day, he said to each of them, not in each other’s presence, though.

“Sulza, I want you to go into the nearby woods, and climb a tree. Sit on the branch of the first tree that you come across there. Sit there, until something tells you that it is time to come down again, but for no longer than the full day.”

He gave the exact same ask to his other student, Josslsa, the next day.

The first student didn’t understand what the master had asked him to do this for, but he followed his master’s words to the letter.

(The second student asked another master for his opinion, sometimes good, sometimes not so good to do)

The second student also didn’t understand his master’s strange request either.

He tried to understand it better first before undertaking it. He even went to a nearby town, and he got advice from the Zen master there too.

This Zen master told him:

“Your master is a bit eccentric and long in the tooth now, just go to the tree, and sit on the ground, leaning your back up against its trunk, and contemplate it all a bit more from that position, even as once did the great Buddha himself.”

The first student sat there from morning to late evening and nothing happened, so as the day was complete, he now got down, and walked back to the monastery, no wiser as to what might have really happened that day.

The second student sat on the ground with his back resting against its trunk. He had no desire to actually climb up onto the branch. What difference could that possibly make anyway he thought to himself.

Besides, the other Zen master had advised him not to too.

Suddenly a surge of water from a nearby dam of which the walls had broken washed him right away.

He died, also none the wiser.

                 (Lean not to only your own understanding is generally very good advice to take.)

Sometimes, we should not try to lean towards our own understanding, but trust the master’s understanding instead.

One student followed his own understanding, the other trusted his master’s understanding, even if he didn’t understand it.

The first student’s unquestioning obedience saved his life.

He listened truly, the other student only had ears for himself.

Photo Credit: The photos used in this article were all sourced from the free media site, freeimages.com


What do you think?

Written by The Dunce


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  1. The willingness to understand takes both time, patience but it also takes openness. Here we have two students that had the first two pieces but did not have the last.

    well one had the first two, one only had one and it cost him his life.

    • That’s a nice formula about how to progress through life from understanding to greater understanding.

      Life proceeds in itself, from itself, as itself, and if any of these aspects of life are missing, we are not interacting with life, but forcing it to interact with us instead.

      One way works, the other is a recipe for disaster.

        • I do not think that we can be totally closed, all of the time.

          At times, something really moving might still shine its light through our closed windows, when the blinds are open, just a fraction.

          I myself am closed off in many areas, but, in other areas, I am completely open.

          I am like a house with a secret attic, and a closed-off cellar, but the rest of the house welcomes every guest into it.

          We all need some such private closed-off space in our lives, I think.

          The type of closure you are talking about is perhaps a bit different though, when we do really lock away ourselves in our attic, and never even rise up to our house anymore, yet alone to our attics.

          • basement, not attic in this line:

            The type of closure you are talking about is perhaps a bit different though, when we do really lock away ourselves in our basement, and never even rise up to our house anymore, yet alone to our attics.

        • “I accept the modification that we are not fully closed but closed enough as we move through youth that we cannot always see what is in front of us.”

          lost the reply button already.

          Yes, these youths drive their cars so quickly too, that they do not see what is in front of them there either.

          Youth, more lives for the thrill of the moment, than what comes at the end of the thrill, when they are not seeing the consequences of their actions.

          • i watched a video of college students in the US, hosting a huge party on the 2nd day after moving into the dorms.

            the next day the college announced no more in-person classes.

            2 clusters of the virus already.

            we as a world, have to help the youth understand that the immortality they think they have is fleeting. they trade all their tomorrows for one fun today.

          • sadly there were ill effects we just didn’t know. A wise man once said that youth is wasted on the young.

            The master i speak with often online often asks students to help him with his podcast. they ask him “why don’t you just learn it is easy.” He always says because i was formed in the world before this new thing.

            i struggle with that one.

        • I am sure that you are right.

          I have indigestion issues now, probably stemming from that period of my life.

          Perhaps, it’s only that master’s sense of humour, as he allows his students to help him, and rub shoulders with him up close, so to speak.

          “Why bark, if we have dogs to bark for us”, is probably not quite the right quote to use here, but it roughly does fit, I guess.

        • Perhaps the emptiness of the “Y” is replaced by the fullness of the answer, only if the “Y” is not eaten by the person attached to an answer, but remains as a step to the answer, not a step away from it.

          We can become full of our questions rather than remaining still open to the answers.

          • why always drives what and how, was the rule I was taught in IT. i often found myself trying to argue that and ended up in a circle.

            it is the chicken and egg question.

            if you don’t have a why driving what and how then nothing gets done.

        • We all like to be the driver of our own car, rather than just a passenger in it, and the “why ” also sometimes seems to place us in the passenger seat until it is answered, and we can drive with understanding, of where we are going, again ourselves.

          • Autonomous cars are much safer than humans driving 🙂 i wish we could move to a world where we allowed machines to do the things they are best at, but to also endeavor to allow humans to expand what they are good at.

          • How small can we shrink to fit through the doors? Each door is smaller than the last and there are more doors to go.

            i often wonder about that concept the reality of chance versus plan.

        • Chance versus plan.

          I like to chance my own thought on that one too, at times, to come up with a “non-chancable” plan, or two, or three, until chance seems to enter the plan, at some point again too.

          It is hard to throw chance right out of any plan, when quantumly speaking, it is a part of the structure of the plan, (or set-up, might be a better word) anyway.

    • If God exists, when he created, chance then existed too, as when chance is given, freedom is possible then too.

      Without chance, there can be no real freedom, for any part of creation, which needs it, and all the other parts need of creation need it too.

      Yes, chance is critical to creation

        • There is no chance in God, but he does allow chance, in his world.

          He is a gambler with us, hoping from chance that we might come good in the end.

          He does keep supplying us with new gambling chips every day though, and he is always there to provide counseling for the gambling addicts too.

          My Dad used to ask the question:

          Is it better to place a strong high fence at the top of a high cliff to stop people jumping over it, or is it better to keep an ambulance stationed at the bottom of the cliff to pick up the pieces, when someone does?

          My Dad being who he was, said that the ambulance was better.

          We can never stop a determined person from jumping off of his own cliff.

          There is no chance, but the chance we take ourselves then, and when we take a chance, there are consequences of that chance, so that is not really a real chance happening either.

          • You made an interesting point there too.

            How does chance provide energy; does chance lead to failure?

            Chance balances off perfection against imperfection, but yes if you always choose the side of imperfection you will be lead to failure.

            The balance beam provides the release of the energy.

        • The willingness to dot “i”s, or not, is only granted to those with eyes; the rest follow formalities.

          That’s what I connect to in you, a little bit of informality, which I try to have to, but it does take some doing sometimes, as some people can be offended thereby.

          Pure power without limits probably only produces another grok.

          Who wants a world of only groks?

          So, we all have our own degrees of powers, which also varies at times too.

          • i want a world where we all grok. Where the power passes to and through us in its absolute pureness.

            but power has to have limits, or the rules of the universe have to change.

        • Are the rules greater than the power?

          Do the rules come first?

          Doesn’t the power contain the rules within it?

          Like with the big bang, the laws were created after this, or were they?

          Perhaps God is the law, a law unto himself, so that all he does his lawise power?

          But then where would power come from?

          Perhaps they were in tandem, power creates laws, according to the laws but then rearranges the laws as the power takes hold.

          Perhaps, like DNA, power and law are two strands in the same pipeline of love that exists as background potential, at all times.

      • i suspect if we consider Einstein’s view, God does not play dice with the universe, the element of chance is removed.

        but if we consider the darker side of the universe, the chance is always there. It is the energy used to chaos. Chaos exists not just within each of us, but around us as well. So Chance both produces and consumes the essential essence of the universe.

        I don’t think chance, and time are bound to a diety. I believe chance, time and energy exist as the medium in which a diety coul rise.

        • Does God arise, or does he form himself from his own creation?

          God usurps authority over all, as he is conscious of all, and consciousness grabs what is there, and can power it in new ways, making life come out of nothing, because consciousness mixed with matter produces life.

          This was how God created himself, because he was this consciousness, floating over all, but from the matter he manifested a focal point for it of oneness in itself, and this main one focal point is God.

        • The “i” in the “i’ is only the “I” when we capitalise on it, and God is the same as this.

          He exists, when he is existing.

          His only limits are self-imposed limits, and that is the part of him that we see and try to describe.

          We can probably never see God without his limits, as we are too limited, or limiting of ourselves to see that.

          • i never capitalize i i find it to be a limiter.

            but I would argue that the procession of pure power with no limits would not be something humans could ever possibly perceive and by default that we could ever grok.

  2. Yes, so do I but I do like trying to connect the dots together. It gives me a certain satisfaction every time that I can make such a connection.

    With our nightly dreams, it is similar to this. It is hard to know why they happen, or not happen too…lol…

    • The Dunce less than a minute ago.

      I commented in the wrong commenting reply box, I think. It’s easy to do when there is only one comment to reply to.

      I cannot figure out how and why this happened now either, and yet, it is a nice example of just what I was talking about here now, so maybe that is why it happened, …lol…

      Yes, so do I but I do like trying to connect the dots together. It gives me a certain satisfaction every time that I can make such a connection.

      With our nightly dreams, it is similar to this. It is hard to know why they happen, or not happen too…lol…


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