Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I've collected a lot of Zen/Buddhist/Taoist quotes over the years. Here are a few of my favorites.  Okay, it's more than a few:

 1. “Tension is who you think you should be.  Relaxation is who you are.”     ~ Chinese Proverb

2. “When we are unable to find tranquility within ourselves, it is useless to seek it elsewhere.”    ~ Zen Proverb

3.  "We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves."    ~ Buddha

4. "Remembering a wrong is like carrying a burden on the mind."    ~Buddha

5.  “Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.”    ~ Alan Watts

6. "Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment."   ~ Lao Tzu 

7. "One who is too insistent on his own views, finds few to agree with him."  ~ Lao Tzu

8. "Respond intelligently, even to unintelligent treatment."  ~ Lao Tzu

9. "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."   ~ Dalai Lama

10. "My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness."   ~ Dalai Lama

11. "Whether one believes in a religion or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion."  ~ Dalai Lama

12. “All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.”  ~  Dalai Lama

13. “We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.”   ~ Dalai Lama

14. "No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place."   ~ Zen Proverb

15. “Life is like stepping onto a boat which is about to sail out to sea and sink. We may as well enjoy the journey, because the destination is the same for all of us.”  ~ Unknown

16.  "If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?"  ~ Taoist Proverb

17.  “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Do not resist them, for that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality."  ~ Lao-Tzu

Saturday, December 10, 2011


The student saved his money for many weeks to buy a gift for his retiring Master. Finally, after much searching, he found and purchased a new fishing rod. He knew how much the old teacher enjoyed fishing, and since he would be leaving soon, it seemed like a perfect idea.

The next day, during a break in their classes, he approached the Master and handed him the gift. The student explained this was his way of saying thank you for all that he learned during his time at the school. The Master reached out, took the rod from the young man's hands, nodded, then turned and walked away.

Surprised by the reaction of his teacher, the young man questioned one of the senior students. "Have I offended our Master in some way?" he asked. "I gave him a gift that I thought he would find most enjoyable. He took the gift, but then he simply turned around and left me standing there."

"What did you expect in return?" asked the older student.

"I don't know, perhaps some kind words of appreciation. I certainly did not expect much, but far more than I received," replied the young man.

"Then you did not give anything at all," said the senior. "You merely traded one gift for what you hoped would be another. That is not giving."

"We do not give, with the hope of receiving anything in return," continued the senior. "If you must have recognition for your gift, know that our Master will enjoy it for many years. That knowledge is your reward."


Friday, October 28, 2011

Good and Bad

The teacher was holding a week long meditation at his school, and pupils from many parts of the country were in attendance. During one of  the gatherings a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to the teacher, with the request that the culprit be expelled. The request was ignored.

Later, the same pupil was caught in a similar act, and again the matter was disregarded. This angered the other pupils, who drew up a petition, asking for the dismissal of the thief, stating that otherwise they would all leave the meditation.

When the teacher had read the petition, he called everyone before him. "My brothers, you are very wise," he told them. "You know what is right, and what is not. You may go somewhere else to study if you wish, but this poor young man does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if we do not? I am going to keep him here, even if all the rest of you leave."

"If we stay, are we now to be teachers for this thief?", asked one of the astonished students.  

"Yes, but you are only half-right", said the Master. "We are also his students. We must first learn how to help this young man, and only he can teach us that."


When we see all beings, and all situations, as our teacher, we can continue to learn and to grow.

Labeling something as good, or bad, allows us to pass judgement quickly, and move on with our lives.  Then we enjoy the satisfaction of thinking we are right, but without ever having learned anything.  

The students had a thief among them.  Their first instinct was to label him, and then quickly be rid of him.  They wanted to make the thief a problem for someone else to deal with.  Instead, the teacher saw an opportunity to teach, and to learn.

Verse 27 of the Tao Te Ching says:

What is a good person, but a bad person's teacher?
What is a bad person, but a good person's job?
If you do not understand this, you will get lost, however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Teaching Peace

"I have just come from the marketplace, and I am troubled." said the student. "The men there, they quarrel, and fight over the smallest of things."

"Why does this trouble you?" asked the teacher.

"I want these men to know peace," replied the student. "We should teach them our ways."

"We cannot teach someone that does not want to learn," replied the teacher. "Let me ask you, what is required for the world to be at peace?"

"Well, we would need peace among the nations," answered the young man.

"Agreed," replied the teacher. "Then what?"

"We need peace among the cities and towns," said the student. "We also need peace in our neighborhoods and homes. Then, peace among all people, as individuals."

"All true," said the teacher. "Now tell me, where does peace begin?"

"It begins with me," replied the student.

"Well done," said the teacher. "Peace is innate, it does not need to be taught. It only needs to be practiced."


Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Stolen Axe

One cold morning, a farmer went out to chop wood and realized his axe was missing.  He always kept the axe in the same place, next to the woodpile. Now it was nowhere to be seen.

"I'll bet that boy next door took it," he thought.  "That kid's always watching me work, and he's so quiet.  He seems like the sneaky type that would steal something.  I'll keep an eye on him...."

The next day, the man watched the young boy whenever he was outside.  The boy seemed nervous and jumpy. "He's guilty as sin," thought the man.  "I bet he knows I'm on to him.  Look at the way he walks, with his head down, like he's ashamed of something."  

Later that evening, the farmer decided to go into town and purchase a new axe. "But I'll keep an eye on that kid for a few days," he thought.  "He'll slip up soon enough, and when he does, I'll catch him!"

The man walked out to the barn to saddle up his horse, and when he did, he saw the axe.  There it was, just inside the door.  He had brought it in for sharpening two days ago, and had completely forgotten about it. 

The next morning, the man saw the boy out in the yard again.  The boy was doing the same things he had always done; walking around, sitting on the steps, performing a few chores, but something was different about him. 

"What a nice young man," thought the farmer. "He's so quiet and polite, spending time with his family, and doing his chores every morning." 

"I was a fool to think someone like that could steal from me."   


The farmer believed the boy next door was a thief.  The boy had never harmed him, or taken anything from him, yet the farmer was convinced his neighbor was a thief. What evidence did he have?  Only his own imagination.

If we allow our minds to proceed, unchecked and unquestioned, we will believe every thought we create.  Our thoughts have the power to see a circle in place of a square, or to see the truth where there exists only a lie.

The farmer thought the boy had stolen his axe.  From that very moment, once the decision was made, our farmer looked for every piece of information he could find to prove his thoughts were correct.  He began to see what he wanted to see.  Why would the farmer do that?  Why was he so quick to believe the boy next door had stolen his axe?

We put so much importance on our thoughts, believing they carry so much value, that when they appear we don't question them.  We believe that our thoughts must be true.  They're so important to us, how could they not be true?  We're smart, we're good, we're usually right, therefore, our thoughts must be all of those things too.

They're not.  They're just thoughts.  Our thoughts are easily manipulated by the desires of our egos.  It can be our self esteem, our need to be right, the need for attention, or even to be a victim. Now throw in greed, lust, envy, jealousy, etc.  You get the picture.  The list of influences over our thoughts goes on forever. 

How do we stop it?   We start by questioning our thoughts.  We can look at them.  We can ask ourselves, "Am I being negative, am I judging and labeling, just because it satisfies or protects my ego?"  If the thought is garbage, which many of them are, we can simply throw them away.  

When we use our thoughts to judge others, we do not define others, we define ourselves. 


Monday, July 25, 2011

The Tree and the Shrub

A young woman approached a Zen Monk and asked, "Why are you always so blissful and happy, and why am I not?"

The Monk responded, "I will tell you my secret.  First, look outside of the window. Do you see the large tree that towers above all others?"

She said, "Yes, I see it."

The Monk asked, "Do you also see that small shrub by its side?"

She said, "Yes, I see that, too."

The Monk continued, "I have never heard the shrub saying to the tree, why are you so big, while I am so small? Why do you reach toward the sky, while I remain near the ground? The tree is big, and the shrub is small, but so what? Both are unique. Both serve the purpose they were put on this earth for. They don't compare themselves, even though they stand side by side.  Both are perfectly happy."

The Monk continued, "You are unhappy because you are constantly comparing; you are living in comparison. I am happy because I have dropped all comparison; I have simply accepted myself as I am. That is my secret."

"But I would also like to improve myself," replied the young woman.  "I want to be better at certain things in my life, things that I believe will make me happier."

"Good for you", replied the Monk. "Go and do those things, but do not compare yourself to others while doing them."

The Monk continued, "I learned this lesson many years ago, anyone who bases their happiness upon comparisons to others, is destined to be unhappy."


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blue Ribbon Corn

A farming community held a county fair each year.  There were many different events during the week, and one of the most competitive was the contest among the farmers to see who could grow the best crop of corn.

For years, one particular farmer had dominated the competition.  Somehow, he always managed to win.  Each summer his corn was voted the best by all of the judges, and it was always a unanimous decision.  His crop was always a beautiful, bright yellow, and so sweet and tender it would melt in your mouth after it was prepared.

After each competition, and after the farmer had received his blue ribbon for first place, he would hand out bags of his best seed corn to all of the other farmers at the fair.  He had done this, without fail, following each victory.

One of the judges had noticed the old farmer giving away his best seed corn, and decided to inquire.

“Why do you hand out your winning crop to the other farmers each year?” asked the judge.  “Surely you know you're just helping the competition.”

"Not at all,” said the farmer, “it is actually a matter of self-interest.”

“Whatever do you mean?” asked the judge.

The farmer explained, “As you know, the winds are strong all year in this region.  They pick up the pollen and carry it from field to field. Therefore, if my neighbors grow inferior corn, the cross-pollination brings down the quality of my own corn. That is why I ensure they plant only the very best."

Is our farmer a giver or a taker?  Is he sharing, or is he just being greedy for another blue ribbon?

He explains that he gives away his best seed corn because it helps the other farmers keep their crop at a higher standard.  The old farmer didn't say he did it for the blue ribbon, only that he wants the best corn he can grow. Should we take him at his word? 

A farmer's job is to grow food, enough food to feed his family, his neighbors, and if need be, the entire world.  The blue ribbon is nice, but we can't eat ribbons. 

Our lead character in this story follows the Tao.   He knows something very deep. He knows he doesn't own the corn; he's just using it to the best of his ability. Our farmer has dropped the idea of possession.  A man cannot possess corn any more than a fish can posses the ocean, or a bird can possess the sky.

Verse 2 of the Tao Te Ching says: 

 "The sage acts without doing
 and teaches without saying.
 Things arise and she lets them come,
 things disappear and she lets them go.
 She has, but doesn't possess.
 She acts, but doesn't expect.
 When her work is done, she forgets it.
 That is why it lasts forever."

Our farmer gives away the best that he has, in order to keep the best that he has.

Enjoy the ride.