One of Buddhism's most important tenets is compassion, both for oneself, and for others. Buddhists use many stories and legends to illustrate compassion's many aspects.
Avalokiteshvara ( "the Lord who looks upon the world with compassion") is seen as representative of the compassion of all the Buddhas.
According to the legend, Avalokiteshvara was a Buddhist aspirant who was deeply moved by the suffering of the beings he saw around him and he vowed that he would not rest until he had liberated all sentient beings from suffering.
|Illustration by Tomi Um from Lion's Roar (see Blog Roll)|
suffering beings one by one, he looked out and realized there were a vast throng of beings whose sufferings he had not yet been able to relieve. His despair became so intense that his head split into thousands of pieces.
The Buddha lovingly gathered the scattered pieces and put them back together as a body with eleven heads and 1000 arms, each ending with an open hand and an eye in its palm, so that Avalokiteshvara could see the suffering in the world and assist thousands of sentient beings all at the same time.
The mantra associated with Avalokiteshvara is the one most Westerners are most familiar with, "Om Mani Padme Hum", which is said to liberate all beings from suffering.
Now we will tell a few Buddhist stories/jokes. Buddhists love jokes. One of the things Buddhists find most amusing is a pompous, self-important teacher, and there is nothing more Buddhists like than using humour to make a point.
The first is called; The Teacher Learns a Lesson
There was a devoted meditator, who after years of focusing on Om Mani Padme Hum, believed he had attained enough insight to begin teaching. His humility was not yet perfect, but nonetheless he felt himself ready to lead others.
A few years of successful teaching left the meditator satisfied with his spiritual attainment. He had no desire to seek further wisdom from others, but when he heard there was a famous hermit living nearby, he felt the opportunity too exciting to be passed up. The hermit lived alone on an island in the middle of a lake, so the meditator hired a man with a boat to row him across to the island.
The old hermit received him graciously and the meditator was very respectful. As they shared tea the meditator asked the hermit about his practice. The old man said he had no special practice, except for the mantra of Avalokiteshvara, which he repeated all the time to himself.
The meditator was secretly delighted, the hermit was using the same mantra he himself taught ~ but when the hermit spoke the mantra aloud, the meditator was horrified!
"What's wrong?" asked the hermit.
"I don't know what to say. I'm afraid you've wasted your whole life! You are pronouncing the mantra incorrectly!"
"Oh, dear!," the hermit cried. "That is truly terrible! How should I say it?"
The meditator gave the correct pronunciation, and the old hermit was very grateful. He asked the visitor to leave immediately so he could start chanting the mantra properly right away.
On the way back across the lake the meditator, now brimming with confidence that he was an accomplished teacher, pondered aloud the sad fate of the hermit.
"It is so fortunate that I came along," he remarked to the boatman. "At least now he will have a little time to practice correctly before he dies."
Just then, the meditator noticed that the boatman had turned quite pale and seemed dumbstruck, and he turned to see the hermit standing respectfully on the water, next to the boat.
"Excuse me, please," the hermit said humbly, with a deep bow. "I am so sorry to inconvenience you, but I am old and and forgetful, and the correct pronunciation has already slipped my mind. Would you please repeat it for me?"
"You clearly don't need it," stammered the meditator; but the old man repeated his polite request until the meditator relented and told him again the way he thought the mantra should be pronounced.
The old hermit thanked him quietly, smiled sweetly, turned and could be heard repeating the mantra very carefully, slowly, over and over, as he walked across the surface of the water back to his island.
Life is Transient
A famous spiritual teacher came to the front door of the King's palace. None of the guards tried to stop him as he entered and made his way to where the King himself was sitting on his throne.
"What do you want?" asked the King, immediately recognizing the visitor.
"I would like to sleep overnight in this inn," replied the teacher.
“This is not an inn," said the King, "It is my palace."
"May I ask who owned this palace before you?"
"My father. He is dead."
"And who owned it before him?"
"My grandfather. He too is dead."
"And this place where people stay for a short time and then move on - did I hear you say that it is not an inn?"
Fred: "Why must we bow at the end of a meditation period?"
Ho Chi Zen: "To thank God it's over."
Clothes Make the Man
A Zen abbot went dressed in rags to the door of a rich man and was turned away with an empty bowl. So he returned in his formal robe of office and was invited in and served a sumptuous meal.
Removing his robe and folding it, he placed it on the chair in front of the feast and departed with the words, "This meal is not for me; it is for the robe."
Reader's Digest Zen
This true story was actually published in one of the humour sections of Reader's Digest many years ago:
At an interdenominational religious conference in Hawaii, a Japanese delegate approached a Baptist minister and said, "My humble superstition is Buddhism. What is yours?"
A Blind Man with a Lantern
An old Zen master always told this fable to frivolous students: Late one night a blind man was about to go home after visiting a friend.
"Please," he asked his friend, "may I take a lantern with me?"
"Why carry a lantern?" asked his friend. "You won't see any better with it."
"No," said the blind one, "perhaps not. But others will see me better, and not bump into me."
So his friend gave the blind man the lantern, which was made of paper on bamboo strips, with a candle inside.
Off went the blind man with the lantern, and before he had gone more than a few yards, “Bang!” -- a traveler walked right into him.
The blind man was very angry. "Why don't you look out?" he stormed. "Why don't you see this lantern?"
“Fool! Why don't you light the candle?" asked the traveler.