Zen StorySarah Jayne
Sometimes a story can teach much more than entire philosophical treatises.
Each week I will post a storey/proverb or fable from Zen, Buddhist or Sufi traditions – some of them are easy to understand, others need more time to ponder at, but all of them are profoundly meaningful.
Whether you’re of an eastern tradition or simply a seeker on the path of enlightenment, these short stories will assist you in your journey to peace and contentment, if you pay them close attention and let them talk to the depths of your being.
Religions and traditions from all over the world have used storytelling as a medium to convey their messages of wisdom.
One such religion is Buddhism, which for centuries has used parables, anecdotes, fables and tales to help people develop awareness by offering enlightening insights and moral life lessons. This culminates in the teachings of Zen Buddhism, a tradition famous for using short stories extensively to arise in Buddhist monks and students a deeper, more comprehensive understanding of reality.
In this post, I’ve chosen one of my favourite short Zen stories.
May you learn and enjoy.
Courage- fears’ Shadow
One cowardly person came to a master of martial arts and asked to teach him bravery and courage. The master looked at him and said:
- I will teach you only with one condition: one month you will have to live in a big city and tell every person that you meet on your way that you are a coward. You will have to say it loudly, openly and looking straight into the person’s eyes.
The person got really sad, because this task seemed very scary to him. For a couple of days he was very sad and thoughtful, but to live with his cowardice was so unbearable that he travelled to the city to accomplish his mission.
At first, when meeting the passers, he quailed, lost his speech and couldn’t contact anyone. But he needed to finish the master’s task, so he began to overcome himself. When he came up to his first passer to tell about his cowardice, it seemed to him that he would die from fear. But his voice sounded louder and more confident with every passing day.
Suddenly came a moment, when the man caught himself thinking that he’s not scared anymore, and the further he continued doing the master’s task, the more convinced he was that the fear was abandoning him. That way a month had passed. The person came back to the master, bowed to him and said:
- Thank you, teacher. I finished your task. Now I’m not afraid anymore. But how did you know that this strange task will help me?
- The thing is that cowardice is only a habit. By doing the things that scare us, we can destroy the stereotypes and come to a conclusion that you came to.
And now you know that bravery – is also a habit. And if you want to make bravery and courage a part of yourself- you need to move forward into the fear. Then the fear will go away, and courage will take its place.