John Suler's Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors


The Prime Minister of the Tang Dynasty was a national hero for his success as both a statesman and military leader. But despite his fame, power, and wealth, he considered himself a humble and devout Buddhist. Often he visited his favorite Zen master to study under him, and they seemed to get along very well. The fact that he was prime minister apparently had no effect on their relationship, which seemed to be simply one of a revered master and respectful student.

One day, during his usual visit, the Prime Minister asked the master, "Your Reverence, what is egotism according to Buddhism?" The master's face turned red, and in a very condescending and insulting tone of voice, he shot back, "What kind of stupid question is that!?"

This unexpected response so shocked the Prime Minister that he became sullen and angry. The Zen master then smiled and said, "THIS, Your Excellency, is egotism."

People's reactions to this story:

"The best way to learn something is not by having it explained to you, but by EXPERIENCING it yourself, firsthand."

"Actions speak louder than words."

"It's interesting that the Zen master referred to his student as 'Your Excellency' just before he zaps him with the egotism comment. I wonder if he ever called the Prime Minister that before the Prime Minister asked the question about egotism."

"People need to put aside their petty titles in order to really relate to each other. Titles are very egotistical... But then, you also should never forget who you are."

"This story illustrates how enlightenment does not put the master above the student. They relate to each other as equals, including BOTH of them acting egotistical."

"Egotism is a large part of who we be, Without it I'm sure the daily obits would take up most of the paper. I think I was more frightened that a man in his position would ask such a question. Fictional I Hope!"

"I think the message of the story is that people already know the answer to most questions that they ask. Many questions are egotistical in themselves."

"Whenever we call someone else's question stupid, we are being egotistical. Questions are necessary."

"I hope the Prime Minister had a good sense of humor."

"Was the Zen master really insulted by the question, or was it just an act?"

"If the question got the Zen master angry, it must be because he thought the Prime Minister should know better. Maybe he really thought he was better than the Prime Minister. Or maybe the master felt inadequate because he thought he had taught the Prime Minister better. In either case, HE was the one being egotistical."

"People of status sometimes try to pretend that it's no big deal, but it is... to them."

|| Concentration || Self-Control || The Gift of Insults ||


~ Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbor ~