Thursday, July 18, 2002
A Zen Story
By Sam Andrew
When I was 18, a guru told me this story which has come
to mean more and more as the years pass.
Once upon a time there was a Shogun who wanted a nice
picture of a chicken to go in his tokonoma.
So, he went to a very fine artist (Hiroshige? Sharaku?)
and said, "I want you to paint me the best picture of a
chicken that you can."
So, the artist said, "Hai, hai, mochiron, kore o
shimasu." (Yes, yes, certainly, I will do this.)
The artist went to his cabin high on Mount Fuji. He
brought books of bird anatomy, many studies of birds
done by all the famous artists of the past, He sculpted
chickens, he painted chickens in oil, he did one
woodblock after another of nothing but chickens. He
depicted chickens in bushido poses, crashing through the
shoji in a samurai palace. He drew noble portraits of
chickens in virtuous attitudes. He used a sumie brush to
catch every nuance of a chicken's life. He painted
chickens in the landscape and in the boudoir, on the
battlefield and in the barn.
Ten years passed.
One day the shogun was at archery practice when he
thought of his request to the artist. He immediately
mounted his steed and made his way to the artist's
cabin. It was hard to enter the door. There were
sketches of chickens stacked to the ceiling. There were
statues of chickens everywhere. There were skeletons of
chickens and paintings of chickens. There was nowhere to
sit and very little space to stand.
"Where is my chicken drawing?" demanded the Shogun.
"Oh," said the artist, "I forgot, sorry." And he took a
brush, whirled it very quickly on a piece of rice paper,
handed the paper to the Shogun, and said, "Here."
The poet Basho said: "Forget yourself. Become one with
the universe and your music. Let it flow through you. No
matter how perfect technically, if your expression is
not natural and unselfconscious, your music won't affect
others emotionally but will merely be your subjective
I rose and walked about, rotating my feet to move my
aching ankles. Relieved, I returned to my sitting
The Roshi (master) looked at the place where I had
"Are you able to see the footsteps?" the Roshi asked.
He nodded his head. "They were not there before and are
not there now. There was nothing in your life before and
nothing in the future. Only" - and he burst forth again
from Spiritual Friends list
Here is a quote from Jourdain's book, "Radical
Awakening" edited by Gilles Farcet:
"Every instant, everything we designate outside our
consciousness that appears real to us, endowed with a
reality that's autonomous and exterior to our own
consciousness, everything we perceive outside ourselves
through the window of our thought, all that is
hallucinatory. This hasn't one atom of reality. It's a
purely imaginary phenomenon. They're subjective effects
that your sleeping consciousness turns into a reality
that's autonomous and separate from you. That's the
nature of the hallucination. To sense your past, the
past in general, or the future, or Paris, or the cosmos,
as something real, as realities separate from you, is
to hallucinate like the madman who walks down the
street talking to a phantom interlocutor. The fellow
has lost his marbles because he has turned a purely
subjective and unreal effect into objective reality. All
this should show you the extent of what must be
eradicated. All this also shows you the extent of the
immensity of what must be put back into the heart of
consciousness to be dissolved there."
"No God but God"
"No God..." - there is no God, God does not exist.
"...but God" - and yet still that living emptiness out
of which and to which all coming and going is cannot be
In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west;
people create distinctions out of their own minds and
then believe them to be true. -- Buddha