A Zen Story

Zen Master

Long ago, in the age of the Shogun, there lived in Japan an infamous young samurai.  Through many years of arduous training he had developed great strength.  Along with this strength, he had an uncanny ability to spot and exploit a weakness in his opponent’s form.  He would wait for his opponent to charge at him, thus revealing the weakness, and swiftly cut the aggressor down.  It was this talent that made him invincible.  He vanquished all who dared to fight him.  In his quest for a worthy opponent, he traveled from village to village and found that none could stand before his prowess.

One fateful day, he came to the village of a certain old master.  Skilled as this master was, he was known far and wide as one who possessed great wisdom.  The samurai challenged the master as soon as he saw him.  And much against the advice of his concerned students (who had heard the arrogant samurai who vanquished all), the master agreed to the duel.

As soon as they reached the appointed place, the samurai began to hurl vulgar insults at his senior.  He threw dirt and spit in the master’s face.  Seeing that this had no effect, the samurai spit out every obscenity he knew; all to get the master to show his hand.  He did this for hours.  And all this time the master stood there like a stone Buddha; his sword in his hand, his eyes expressionless, and every-so-ready.  Finally, the samurai found himself exhausted.  He gazed at the master with respect.  He humbly bowed and left, a much wiser man.

After the samurai had gone, the students asked the master about what they had seen.  “How did you defeat him without striking him?” one asked.  “Why did you endure such insolence?” another asked.  The old master smiled and replied, “If someone comes and gives you a gift and you do not receive it… to whom does the gift belong?”

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