John Suler's Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors



During a momentous battle, a Japanese general decided to attack even though his army was greatly outnumbered. He was confident they would win, but his men were filled with doubt. On the way to the battle, they stopped at a religious shrine. After praying with the men, the general took out a coin and said, "I shall now toss this coin. If it is heads, we shall win. If tails, we shall lose. Destiny will now reveal itself."

He threw the coin into the air and all watched intently as it landed. It was heads. The soldiers were so overjoyed and filled with confidence that they vigorously attacked the enemy and were victorious. After the battle, a lieutenant remarked to the general, "No one can change destiny."

"Quite right," the general replied as he showed the lieutenant the coin, which had heads on both sides.


People's reactions to this story:

"You have to be optimistic and confident, otherwise you are doomed."

"If you believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything."

"If you believe that a higher power is on your side, you can accomplish anything."

There ain't nothing like the power of positive thinking. It's a power much greater than oneself."

"Keep the faith!"

"This is a good story for children. You have to TRY if you want to accomplish something. If you don't, you'll never know. To me, 'never to have known' is the worst destiny."

"You can change your destiny. If you aren't responsible for yourself, who will be?"

"I'd love to tell this story to my sister. She always has doubts about herself."

"Almost all of the problems I've encountered in my life were due to the fact that I had doubts about myself, or others."

"Often, when I have to make a difficult decision about something, I toss a coin. It does make me feel more confident about my actions.. Funny, though, that I sometimes keep tossing it until I get the answer I want."

"This story is about a charismatic leader manipulating the emotions of his followers to a beneficial effect. I wonder if Hitler flipped a coin."

"Reminds me of pulling the pedals off of a flower.... She loves me, she loves me not..."

"Talk about a self-fulfilling prophesy!"

"Well, the general won his battle, but he lied to his men in the process. I wonder if that's such a good idea."

"I'd be curious to know how the men would have reacted to finding out about the general's trick. Would they ever trust him again?"

"How many leaders are just tricking us into doing what we do?"

"One person's destiny is another's manipulation."

"I guess when someone surrenders himself to destiny, there's another person behind the scenes who has taken charge to make sure that destiny happens."

"If the soldiers' destiny was the trick of the general, then who is playing tricks with MY destiny?"

"Is there such a thing as destiny?.... I wonder."

zen story || Maybe || Going with the Flow || Working Very Hard ||

~ Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbor ~