Posted in stories

The Buddha Holds Up A Flower

This is the story that gets told as the beginning of the Zen tradition. The Buddha was a beloved and well known spiritual teacher. People just followed him around and listened to what he had to say. He would regularly just get up in front of a crowd and start dispensing wisdom.

On one occasion he stood up before a crowd. They were all very excited, thinking they were about to hear some great wisdom, something that would really awaken or encourage them.

The Buddha stood up and just stood there silently. Then, he held up a flower.

So, we can imagine, the crowd is thinking “What the fuck?” They were expecting some great, serious, profound teaching and they didn’t get one. It was just a flower.

They were holding onto their expectations, memories, and disappointment.

And one guy in the crowd smiled.

Why did he smile?

He smiled because he wasn’t holding on to anything. When he saw the flower, it was just a flower. He wasn’t carrying all the baggage and expectations that we often carry. Sometimes a flower is just a flower.

This story is meant to inspire and encourage us. If he can see the flower and just see a flower, so can we. We don’t have to bring all of our baggage into every situation all the time. We can also just smile at a flower.

here’s a video about this story:

here’s the audio version:

The Flower and the Smile

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Posted in stories, zen

Ma-tsu and the treasure

In the 8th century a student went to visit the great master Ma-tsu.

The master asked, “Why have you come here?”

And the student replied, “I seek enlightenement.”
The master said, “Why go out to see it and forget that you have the treasure already? I have nothing to give you.”
The student said, “But what is my treasure?” The master answered, “It contains everything and lacks nothing. There is nothing to seek outside of yourself.”
There are actually a few similar stories about Master Ma-tsu. I really like this one. The student has come asking for some kind of secret to be revealed, a key to Enlightenment.
Ma-tsu is telling him there is no secret. We all have the treasure inside and it’s our true nature. Enlightenment is not something to seek outside of ourselves.
That is the message.