THE MONK

A new monk arrives at the old Italian monastery for his celibate life of shared poverty and prayer, and is assigned to help the other monks in copying the old texts by hand. He notices, however, that they are copying from copies, not the original manuscripts. So, the new monk goes to the head monk to ask him about this, pointing out that if there were an error in the first copy, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies. The head monk says, “We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son.” So, he goes down into the cellar with one of the copies to check it against the original. Hours go by and nobody sees him. So, one of the monks goes downstairs to look for him. Hearing sobbing coming from the back of the cellar, he finds the old monk leaning over one of the original books crying, and muttering between tears: “There’s an R! There’s an R!” He asks the old monk what’s wrong, and in a choked voice came the reply, “The original word isn’t “celibate” but “celebrate.”

PRAYER FLAG

Some monks were sitting quietly in the garden of a Buddhist monastery on a calm, beautiful day. The prayer flag on the roof started fluttering and flapping in a breeze. A young monk observed: “Flag is flapping.” Another monk said: “Wind is flapping the flag.” The Chan master Hui-neng (whom Southern School Chan regards as 6th Patriarch), overhearing the two monks talking, declared: “It is your minds that are flapping.” Centuries later another famous Chan monk, Wu-men Hui-k’ai (1183-1260), commented on this episode: “Flag, wind, minds flapping. Several mouths were flapping!”

About Mind

MIND
Chan master Fa-yen (Fayan, 885-958) interrupted an argument among some monks concerning the relationship of mind to reality by posing to them a question: “Over there is a large boulder. Do you say that it is inside or outside your mind?” One of the monks replied, “From the Buddhist viewpoint everything is an objectification of mind, so that I would have to say that the stone is inside my mind.” Quipped Fa-yen, “Your head must be very heavy!”

MIND: PART TWO
Chan master Huang-po (Huangbo, d.850s) said: “Many people are afraid to empty their own minds lest they plunge into the Void. Ha! What they don’t realize is that their own Mind is the Void.”

MIND: PART THREE
Huang-po is said to have been unusually tall. Master Nan-chu’an couldn’t help but remark: “Your body is unusually big—isn’t your straw hat too small?” Huang-po replied: “Perhaps… but the entire universe is within it.”