zen, consciousness, life, reality, nature. . . . PLEASE ENJOY THE SOUP. . . . don't forget to wash your bowl when you're done!

SKILLFUL MEANS – Zen Sayings, Stories, & Anecdotes


The Eggplant Frog

There was a buddhist monk who was very careful to keep all the precepts, especially the one against taking life. One night while he was out walking he stepped on something that made a squishing sound, and he thought he had stepped on a frog. He had a very restless night, much difficulty sleeping, and when he did sleep he dreamt hundreds of frogs came to him demanding his life.

The next morning he decided to go and look. He found that what he had stepped on was an overripe eggplant. At that moment he was enlightened and he left buddhism to become a zennist.



The Moon Cannot Be Stolen

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”


This type of zen literature has been public for centuries and can be read by anyone. It requires consciousness alone and doesn’t depend on a particular background in zen buddhism or any form of Asian culture. It applies directly to the relationship between mind and culture itself, whatever that culture may be. Therefore it relates immediately to the way in which the world is experienced and life is lived, wherever one may be.  -Thomas Cleary


The realm of the enlightened is not an external

realm with manifest characteristics;

enlightenment is the realm of the sacred

knowledge found in oneself. You do not need

paraphernalia, practices, or realizations to

attain it. What you need is to clean out the

influences of the psychological afflictions

connected with the external world that have

been accumulating in your psyche since

beginningless time. – -Dahui



She’s Got Legs

(This is a true story.)

I once knew a yoga teacher who had been celibate all his life. One spring day, while out jogging near the reservoir, he noticed the bare legs of a woman sunbathing near the water. His eyes fixed on the girl, he ran straight into a lamp-post and lost two teeth!

The passion of love is deep-rooted; it’s true source is a great mystery. There are desires connected with all the senses; all but this one may be conquered. Nobody is exempt; young and old, wise and foolish are alike it’s slaves. It is a terrible madness – one to be dreaded – but a delusion for which no one should reproach another. – -A.I. Switzer


What doesn’t kill us really does make us stronger:

Give thanks every day, for everything, especially for that which is difficult and painful. Nothing can match the strength of those whose lives have been shaped and forged through challenging and overcoming hardships. Such people fear nothing. They have an iron core. – -zen nun



“Trying to change others is like trying to cover the earth with leather to protect your feet from stones and thorns. It is much easier to put on shoes.”






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