John Suler, Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors
One of Master Gasan's monks visited the university in Tokyo. When he returned he asked the master if he had ever read the Christian Bible.
"No," Gasan replied, "please read some of it to me." The monk opened the Bible to the "Sermon on the Mount" in the Gospel of St. Matthew.
After reading Christ's words about the lilies in the field, he paused. Master Gasan was silent for a long time.
"Yes," he finally said, "Whoever uttered these words is an enlightened being [one attained to the level of stream enterer or higher]. What you have read to me is the essence of everything I have been trying to teach you here!"
(In another version of this old Zen tale, a Christian reads the Bible passage to Gasan.)
Reactions to the Story
"Maybe the point is that we don't need Bibles OR Zen teachers to find enlightenment. We already have it within ourselves."
"It's so sad that wars are fought over differences in 'religion,' when in reality all the world's religions are saying the same essential things. If nations really took religion to heart, so many lives would be saved."
"'Lilies of the field' is a rather zen story, encouraging naturalness acceptance of being."
"Universalism is an extremely faulty world view. All the worlds religions do not teach the same thing. Religion is not about being good to your fellow man, or doing nice things to other people. So many of these comments seem to think that because most religions teach that, in general, you should'nt kill people, and you should'nt steal, and that you should feed the poor, etc., that its all the same thing. That misses the point entirely, and trivializes a vast amount of the most deeply held beliefs of the world's populace...."
"It is interesting that when presented with the Bible, the Master was open to listening. I don't find the same to be true when the situation is reversed, . It feels very comfortable to me to be Buddhist and still feel at peace with others who do not share my views."
"If what is true for you is true, and what is true for me is true, than really nothing is true. If there are no absolutes in the universe higher than our own opinions or experiences, than we live on an ever shifting sand. True truth is true whether we know it, or believe it. It is absolute, unchanging, and independent of our reactions to it. God is God and we are not him. I believe this story is an attempt to dilute the hard division line that the Bible deliberately draws. Our culture trys to offer solutions that do not offend anyone. I wonder how Master Gasan would react to Christ's words "no one may come to the Father but by me." Or "the kingdom of heaven advances violently, and violent men lay hold of it"?
The young man demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull's eye on his first try then split that arrow with a second shot.
"There," he said to the old monk, "see if you can match that!" Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the young archer to follow him up the mountain.
Curious about the old fellow's intentions, the champion followed him high up the mountain until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a single shaky log. Calmly stepping out onto this perilous and unsteady bridge, the old master picked a far off tree as a target, drew his bow, and fired a clean and direct hit.
"Now it is your turn," he said as he gracefully stepped off the log and back onto firm ground.
Staring with terror into the bottomless and beckoning abyss, the young man could not force himself to step out onto the log nor in any way focus on trying to hit a target.
"You have much skill with your bow," the master finally said, sensing his young challenger's predicament, "but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot." Reactions