You Are Also Correct!

Two monks who came out of a lecture by their master went on a hot debate regarding what they heard during the lecture. Each of them insited that his understanding was the correct one. To settle the dispute, they went to see the master for a judgement.

After hearing the argument put forth by the first monk, the master said, “You are correct!” The monk was overjoy. Casting a winner’s glance at his friend, he left the room.

The second monk was upset and started to pour out what he thought to the master. After he finished, the master looked at him and said, “You are correct, too.” Hearing this, the second monk brightened up and went away.

A third monk who was also in the room was greatly puzzled by what he saw. He said to the master, “I am confused, master! Their positions regarding the issue are completely opposite. They can’t be both right! How could you say that they are both correct?”

The master smiled as he looked into the eyes of this third monk, “You are also correct!”

Carrying and Leaving

Once upon a time, there were two monks who went on a pilgrimage across the country together. One day, they came to a river bank and saw a beautiful girl who was unable to cross the river.

Seeing her difficulty, the elder monk volunteered to carry her across the river on his back while the younger one looked on in consternation.

When the sun went down, the monks came upon a dilapidated shack and decided to stay there for the night. The elder monk quickly fell asleep while the younger one twisted around, unable to calm his mind. Finally, he woke up the elder monk and reprimanded him for what happened during the day, “As monks, we are supposed to keep away from women. I am really ashamed and troubled by what you did today!”

The elder monk looked at his friend and a smile broke up on his face, “Oh, so that has been bothering you! Brother, I have left the girl behind by the river bank, why are you still carrying her around?”

Just a Fly in My Tea

“On this particular afternoon a fly fell into my tea. This was, of course, a minor occurrence. After a year in India I considered myself to be unperturbed by insects — by ants in the sugar bin, spiders in the cupboard, and even scorpions in my shoes in the morning. Still, as I lifted my cup, I must have registered, by my facial expression, or a small grunt, the presence of the fly. Choegyal Rinpoche, the eighteen-year-old tulku leaned forward in sympathy and consternation.

“What is the matter?”

“Oh, nothing,” I said. “It’s nothing — just a fly in my tea.” I laughed lightly to convey my acceptance and composure. I did not want him to suppose that mere insects were a problem for me; after all, I was a seaseoned India-wallah, relatively free of Western phobias and attachments to modern sanitation.

Choegyal crooned softly, in apparent commiseration with my plight, “Oh, oh, a fly in the tea.”

“It’s no problem,” I reiterated, smiling at him reassuringly. But he continued to focus great concern on my cup. Rising from his chair, he leaned over and inserted his finger into my tea. With great care he lifted out the offending fly — and then exited from the room. The conversation at the table resumed. I was eager to secure Khamtul Rinpoche’s agreement on plans to secure the high-altitude wool he desired for the carpet production.

When Choegyal Rinpoche reentered the cottage he was beaming. “He is going to be all right,” he told me quietly. He explained how he had placed the fly on the leaf of a branch of a bush by the door, where his wings could dry. And the fly was still alive, because he began fanning his wings, and we cold confidently expect him to take flight soon…

That is what I remember of that afternoon — not the agreements we reached or plans we devised, but Choegyal’s report that the fly would live. And I recall, too, the laughter in my heart. I could not, truth to tell, share Choegyal’s dimensions of compassion, but the pleasure in his face revealed how much I was missing by not extending my self-concern to all beings, even to flies. Yet the very notion that it was possible gave me boundless delight.”

~ Told by Joanna Macy

The Old Man and the Scorpion

One morning, after he had finished his meditation, the old man opened his eyes and saw a scorpion floating helplessly in the water. As the scorpion was washed closer to the tree, the old man quickly stretched himself out on one of the long roots that branched out into the river and reached out to rescue the drowning creature. As soon as he touched it, the scorpion stung him. Instinctively the man withdrew his hand.

A minute later, after he had regained his balance, he stretched himself out again on the roots to save the scorpion. This time the scorpion stung him so badly with its poisonous tail that his hand became swollen and bloody and his face contorted with pain.

At that moment, a passerby saw the old man stretched out on the roots struggling with the scorpion and shouted: “Hey, stupid old man, what’s wrong with you? Only a fool would risk his life for the sake of an ugly, evil creature. Don’t you know you could kill yourself trying to save that ungrateful scorpion?”

The old man turned his head. Looking into the stranger’s eyes he said calmly, “My friend, just because it is the scorpion’s nature to sting, that does not change my nature to save.”

~ Orginally from:

The Hungry Dog

There was a great king who oppressed his people and was hated by his subjects; yet when the Tathagata came into his kingdom, the king desired much to see him. So he went to the place where the Blessed One stayed and asked: “O Sakyamuni, canst thou teach a lesson to the king that will divert his mind and benefit him at the same time?”

And the Blessed One said: “I shall tell thee the parable of the hungry dog:

There was a wicked tyrant; and the god Indra, assuming the shape of a hunter, came down upon earth with the demon Matali, the latter appearing as a dog of enormous size. Hunter and dog entered the palace, and the dog howled so woefully that the royal buildings shook by the sound to their very foundations.

The tyrant had the awe-inspiring hunter brought before his throne and inquired after the cause of the terrible bark. The hunter said, “The dog is hungry,” whereupon the frightened king ordered food for him. All the food prepared at the royal banquet disappeared rapidly in the dog’s jaws, and still he howled with portentous significance. More food was sent for, and all the royal store-houses were emptied, but in vain.

Then the tyrant grew desperate and asked: ‘Will nothing satisfy the cravings of that woeful beast?’ “Nothing,” replied the hunter, nothing except perhaps the flesh of all his enemies.’ ‘And who are his enemies?’ anxiously asked the tyrant.

The hunter replied: ‘The dog will howl as long as there are people hungry in the kingdom, and his enemies are those who practice injustice and oppress the poor.” The oppressor of the people, remembering his evil deeds, was seized with remorse, and for the first time in his life he began to listen to the teachings of righteousness.”

Having ended his story, the Blessed One addressed the king, who had turned pale, and said to him:

“The Tathagata can quicken the spiritual ears of the powerful, and when thou, great king, hearest the dog bark, think of the teachings of the Buddha, and thou mayest still learn to pacify the monster.”

The Story of the Hoe

A farmer plowed the land with a hoe day after day, year after year. The work was hard, but the harvest was plentiful. And yet, one day he couldn’t help but ask himself, “Why am I working so hard? Life is meaningless and boring! Where is my life heading?”

Shortly afterwards, a monk came to his house to ask for alms. The monk looked free and happy, which deeply impressed the farmer. Being a monk and living an unencumbered life seemed admirable. Yes, what a good idea! The farmer cheerfully made up his mind to give up everything and become a monk.

As soon as he left his house, he suddenly felt how empty his hands were. He was so used to holding a hoe in his hands to work that without the hoe he now felt a little lost. Therefore, he went back to his house, picked up his hoe, and tried hard to think of what he could do with it. It was a fine hoe. The shaft was smooth and shiny from daily use. It would be heartbreaking to throw it away.

“OK, then,” he thought, “I’ll wrap it up and put it away.” He found a secure place in the house to hide it. Now everything was settled. With his mind at ease, the farmer left his house at last.

The farmer did all he could to fulfill the requirements to be a true monk. However, he could hardly resist thinking of his hoe whenever he came across green paddies. Every now and then, he would rush back home just to feel the hoe and then return to the temple.

Time passed by quickly. After seven or eight years, he felt that something was missing. “Why haven’t I fulfilled my dream of becoming a free, happy monk after having tried very hard to cultivate my morality? There is something I haven’t let go of. Now it’s time to get rid of my burden!” He rushed back home, picked up the hoe and threw it into a lake. Splash, there it went! “I won! I succeeded!” he couldn’t resist crying out loud.

Just at that moment, a king, leading his victorious army, happened to pass by. He overheard the cry and went to ask the monk, “What did you win? Why are you so cheerful?” “I have conquered the devils in my heart. I have let all my burdens go.”

The king saw that the monk was really happy and free from earthly burdens and delusions. The king thought to himself, “Now I’ve won the war. Victory is mine. But am I really happy? I took lands that didn’t belong to me. It is not real victory.” Then and there, the king realized that although he had won the war, he was not a real winner, but a common person burdened with life’s vexations. He realized that in order to become a real winner and a saint, you have to conquer the devils in your heart.

~ Told by Master Cheng Yen. Translated by C.Y. Tien

The Power of Keeping the Precepts

Formerly, in Kubhana state (Kashmir), there was nearby a monastery a poisonous dragon which frequently played havoc in the region.

In the monastery five hundred arhats gathered together but failed to drive away the dragon with their collective power of Dhyana-samadhi. Later, a monk came to the monastery where he did not enter into Dhyana-samadhi; he merely said to the poisonous dragon: ‘Will the wise and virtuous one leave this place and go to some distant one.’ Thereupon, the poisonous dragon fled to a distant place.

When asked by the arhats what miraculous power he had used to drive away the dragon, the monk replied: ‘I did not use the power of Dhyana-samadhi; I am only very careful about keeping the rules of discipline and I observe a minor one with the same care as a major one.’

So, we can see that the collective power of five hundred arhats’ Dhyana–samadhi cannot compare with a monk’s strict observance of the rules of discipline.

The Human Condition / Stop the Train

The story is told of a man who, being late for a trip, arrived at a railroad station and jumped onto the first available train. Extenuated, he dozed off for a while and then upon waking up, saw the train rumbling along at full speed toward an unknown destination.

He began querying everyone, complaining aloud and finally crying and shouting. He demanded that the train stop to let him off. The more excited he became, the more the other passengers, eerily silent and sowncast, seemed puzzled by his behavior.

Finally a kind old man told him, “don’t you know, this train has only one destination, the ocean depths from which no one ever returns.” Once we are born, our final destination is death — the deep ocean. Why fret and fuss? All we can do is to use our time on earth to develop the Bodhi-mind, seeking Enlightenment for ourselves and others.

~ From “Thus Have I Heard”, edited by Minh Thanh and P.D. Leigh

Yajnadatta, the Mad Man

“The Shurangama Sutra relates the story of Yajnadatta, the mad man of Shravasti, who one day looked in the mirror and noticed that the person reflected in it had a head.

At that point, he lost his reason and said, ‘How come that person has a head and I don’t? Where has my head gone?’

He then ran wildly through the streets asking everyone he met, ‘Have you seen my head? Where has it gone?’

He accosted everyone he met, yet no one knew what he was doing. ‘He already has a head,’ they said. ‘What’s he looking for another one for?’

There are a lot of people just like poor Yajnadatta.”

~ Told by Master Hsuan Hua
~ From “Thus Have I Heard”, edited by Minh Thanh and P.D. Leigh

Goddess of Wealth and Goddess of Poverty

Once a beautiful and well-dressed woman visited a house. The master of the house asked her who she was; and she replied that she was the goddess of wealth. The master of the house was delighted and so greeted her with open arms. Soon after another woman appeared who was ugly looking and poorly dressed. The master asked who she was and the woman replied that she was the goddess of poverty.

The master was frightened and tried to drive her out of the house, but the woman refused to depart, saying, ‘The goddess of wealth is my sister. There is an agreement between us that we are never to live apart; if you chase me out, she is to go with me.’ Sure enough, as soon as the ugly woman went out, the other woman disppeared.

Birth goes with death. Fortune goes with misfortune. Bad things follow good things. Everyone should realize this. Foolish people dread misfortune and strive after good fortune, but those who seek Enlightenment must transcend both of them and be free of worldly attachment.

Miraculous Power

In Buddhism, it is recognized that supernatural or miraculous power is possible and can be attained through training. However, Buddha Sakyamuni discouraged all display of miraculous power as the proof of of spiritual attainment. The following story illustrates the Buddha’s attitude towards miraculous powers.

One day the Buddha was waiting by the river bank for a boat to ferry him across the river. An ascetic passed by and proudly showed off his miraculous power, crossing the river back and forth by treading over the water.

The Buddha smiled and asked him, “How long did you train to attain such power?”

“It took me thirty years!”, said the ascetic.

The Buddha replied, “Thirty years? Well, I can cross the river using the boat for only one penny!”

If a wicked man can become a pure religious man, this according to Buddhism, is a practical miracle.

I Am Awake

When the Buddha start to wander around India shortly after his enlightenment, he encountered several men who recognized him to be a very extraordinary being.

They asked him, “Are you a god?”

“No,” he replied.

“Are you a reincarnation of god?”

“No,” he replied.

“Are you a wizard, then?”


“Well, are you a man?”


“So what are you?” they asked, being very perplexed.

“I am awake.”

Buddha means “The Awakened One”. How to awaken is all he taught.

The Tamarind Tree

One bright and cool summer day the Buddha took a walk along the forest path, simply enjoying the beauty of the earth. At a cross road, he saw a man in grief praying earnestly.

The man recognized the Buddha and fell on his knees. He cried, “Lord Buddha, life is indeed bitter and painful! I was once a man with great wealth, living a life of ease and happiness. By trikery and deceit, those I trusted and loved took everything from me. I am now a wretched man with noone to turn to. How many more times must I be reborn into this world of suffering before I can be librated?”

Pointing to the mango tree by the road, the Buddha said, “Do you see that mango tree? You must be reborn as many times as the number of mangoes on that tree before you know the bliss of liberation from the sufferings of this fleeting world.”

Seeing that there are at least dozens of mangoes hanging on the tree, the man gasped, “But Lord! I have lived a righteous life in accord with the precepts! Why am I condemned to suffer so much longer?”

The Buddha sighed. “That is the way it must be.” And he continued his walk.

He came across another man praying by the road and this man too, fell on his knees and cried, “Lord Buddha, life is indeed bitter and painful. I have lost all those I loved to the king of death. I am now forlorn and lonely. Life is full of anguish. How many more times must I be reborn into this world of suffering before I know the bliss of liberation?”

The Buddha pointed to the field of wild flowers along the road and said, “Before you know the bliss of liberation from the sufferings of this fleeting world, you must be reborn as many times as the number of flowers in that field.”

Seeing so many hundreds of flowers in the field, the man cried, “But Lord! I have done many good deeds and have followed you teachings by heart. Why must I endure so much more suffering?”

The Buddha sighed, “That is how it must be.” And he continued on his way.

When he came across a tamarind tree, another man fell down on his knees and cried before him, “Oh Lord! Life is full of suffering! During the days I toiled like a slave under the scathing sun; at night I have nothing to sleep on except a pile of grass on the cold, damped earth. Life is nothing but hunger, thirst and loneliness! How many more times must I be reborn into this world of suffering before I know the bliss of liberation?”

The Buddha looked up to the tamarind tree–each branch of it bearing many stems and each stem has dozens of leaves. The Buddha said, “Look at that tamarind tree. Before you know the bliss of liberation from the sufferings of this fleeting world, you must be reborn as many times as the number of leaves on that tamarind tree.”

As the man looked up at the tamarind tree and its thousands of leaves, his eyes filled with tears of gratitude and joy. “How merciful!” he said as he prostrated to the ground at the Buddha’s feet.

To this day the tamarind’s seeds are the symbol of faithfulness and forbearance.

The Brave Little Parrot – A Jataka Tale

Once, long ago, the Buddha was born as a little parrot. One day a storm fell upon his forest home. Lightning flashed, thunder crashed, and a dead tree, struck by lightning, burst into flames. Sparks leapt on the wind and soon the forest was ablaze. Terrified animals ran wildly in every direction, seeking safety from the flames and smoke.

“Fire! Fire!” cried the little parrot. “To the river!” Flapping his wings, he flung himself out into the fury of the storm and, rising higher, flew towards the safety of the river. But as he flew he could see that many animals were trapped, surrounded by the flames below, with no chance of escape.

Suddenly a desperate idea, a way to save them, came to him.

He darted to the river, dipped himself in the water, and flew back over the now raging fire.

The heat rising up from the burning forest was like the heat of an oven. The thick smoke made breathing almost unbearable. A wall of flames shot up on one side, and then the other. Crackling flames leapt before him. Twisting and turning through the mad maze of fire, the little parrot flew bravely on. At last, when he was over the center of the forest, he shook his wings and released the few drops of water which still clung to his feathers. The tiny drops tumbled down like jewels into the heart of the blaze and vanished with a hissssssssss.

Then the little parrot once more flew back through the flames and smoke to the river, dipped himself in the cool water, and flew back again over the burning forest. Back and forth he flew, time and time again, from the river to the forest, from the burning forest to the river. His feathers were charred. His feet were scorched. His lungs ached. His eyes, stung by smoke, turned red as coals. His mind spun dizzily as the spinning sparks. But still the little parrot flew on.

At this time, some of the devas — gods of a happy realm — were floating overhead in their cloud palaces of ivory and gold. They happened to look down. And they saw the little parrot flying among the flames. They pointed at him with perfect hands. Between mouthfuls of honeyed foods they exclaimed, “Look at that foolish bird! He’s trying to put out a raging forest fire with a few sprinkles of water! How absurd!” And they laughed.

But one of those gods, strangely moved, changed himself into a golden eagle and flew down, down towards the little parrot’s fiery path.

The little parrot was just nearing the flames again when the great eagle with eyes like molten gold appeared at his side. “Go back, little bird!” said the eagle in a solemn and majestic voice. “Your task is hopeless! A few drops of water can’t put out a forest fire! Cease now and save yourself — before it is too late.”

But the little parrot only continued to fly on through the smoke and flames. He could hear the great eagle flying above him as the heat grew fiercer, calling out, “Stop, foolish little parrot! Save yourself! Save yourself!”

“I don’t need a great, shining eagle,” coughed the little parrot, “to give me advice like that. My own mother, the dear bird, might have told me such things long ago. Advice! (cough, cough), I don’t need advice. I just (cough), need someone to help.”

And the god, who was that great eagle, seeing the little parrot flying through the flames, thought suddenly of his own privileged kind. He could see them high up above. There they were, the carefree gods, laughing and talking, while many animals cried out in pain and fear from the flames below. And he grew ashamed. Then one single desire was kindled in his heart. God though he was, he just wanted to be like that brave little parrot, and to help.

“I will help!” he exclaimed and, flushed with these new feelings, he began to weep. Stream after stream of sparkling tears poured from his eyes. Wave upon wave, they washed down like cooling rain upon the fire, upon the forest, upon the animals and upon the little parrot himself.

The flames died down and the smoke began to clear. The little parrot, washed and bright, rocketed about the sky laughing for joy. “Now that’s more like it!” he exclaimed.

The eagle’s tears dripped from burned branches. Smoke rose up from the scorched earth. Miraculously, where those tears glistened, new life pushed forth — fresh shoots, stems, and leaves. Green grass pushed up from among the still glowing cinders.

Where the teardrops sparkled on the parrot’s wings, new feathers now grew. Red feathers, green feathers, yellow feathers — such bright colors! Such a handsome bird!

All the animals looked at one another in amazement. They were whole and well. Not one had been harmed. Up above in the clear blue sky they could see their brave friend, the little parrot, looping and soaring in delight. When all hope was gone, somehow he had saved them. “Hurray!” they cried. “Hurray for the brave little parrot and for the miraculous rain!”

~ From “The Hungry Tigress” as told by Rafe Martin. Parallax Press, Berkeley California, 1990
(Taken from Inquiring Mind — A Semi-annual Journal of the Vipassana Community Volume 10, Number 2, Spring 1994)

The Fish and the Turtle (Is Nibbana Nothingness?)

Once upon a time there was a fish. And just because it was a fish, it had lived all its life in the water and knew nothing whatever about anything else but water. And one day as it swam about in the lake where all its days had been spent, it happened to meet a turtle of its acquaintance who had just come back from a little excursion on the land.

“Good day, Mr. Turtle!” said the fish. “I have not seen you for a long time. Where have you been?”

“Oh”, said the turtle, “I have just been for a trip on dry land.”

“On dry land!” exclaimed the fish. “What do you mean by on dry land? There is no dry land. I had never seen such a thing. Dry land is nothing.”

“Well,” said the turtle good-naturedly. “If you want to think so, of course you may; there is no one who can hinder you. But that’s where I’ve been, all the same.”

“Oh, come,” said the fish. “Try to talk sense. Just tell me now what is this land of yours like? Is it all wet?”

“No, it is not wet,” said the turtle.

“Is it nice and fresh and cool?” asked the fish.

“No, it is not nice and fresh and cool,” the trutle replied.

“Is it clear so that light can come through it?”

“No, it is not clear. Light cannot come through it.”

“Is it soft and yielding, so that I can move my fins about in it and push my nose through it?”

“No, it is not soft and yielding. You could not swim in it.”

“Does it move or flow in streams?”

“No, it neither moves nor flows in streams.”

“Does it ever rise up into waves then, with white foams in them?” asked the fish, impatient at this string of Noes.

“No!” replied the turtle, truthfully. “It never rises up into waves that I have seen.”

“There now,” exclaimed the fish triumphantly. “Didn’t I tell you that this land of yours was just nothing? I have just asked, and you have answered me that it is neither wet nor cool, not clear nor soft and that it does not flow in streams nor rise up into waves. And if it isn’t a single one of these things what else is it but nothing? Don’t tell me.”

“Well, well”, said the turtle, “If you are determined to think that dry land is nothing, I suppose you must just go on thinking so. But any one who knows what is water and what is land would say you were just a silly fish, for you think that anything you have never known is nothing just because you have never known it.”

And with that the turtle turned away and, leaving the fish behind in its little pond of water, set out on another excursion over the dry land that was nothing.

~ From “The Buddha and His Teachings” by Maha thera Narada