In the Tang dynasty, a Zen monk was preaching in the open air to a small crowd. A seller of pears, pushing his cart of fruit with its two long handles, paused to listen. He became more and more impatient with the teaching about restraint of passions and inner serenity; finally he shouted, “What can your Buddha do? Show us a miracle if you want us to listen to you!”
“Miracles have to be paid for,” replied the monk, “and they bring no lasting good. But practise self-restraint and meditation, and you will be free from sufferings forever.”
“Talk, all talk!” retorted the peddler angrily, and he forced his cart through the crowd up to the front. “Your Buddha did miracles, didn’t he? Then you do one, if you call yourself a Buddhist.”
“The Buddha passed six years in austerities, living on one rice-grain a day. If you did that, you would experience miracles. But he gave them up, and he never taught them to his disciples. He never taught miracles as a way of ending suffering.”
“That’s a get-out, just a get-out! Show us something, show us something.”
The crowd began to take it up. “Yes, he’s right. Show us something, show us something.”
The monk suspended his teaching. He looked at them impressively. “Clear a little space,” he commanded, and then stretched forth his hand.
From the ground sprouted, with breathtaking speed, a pear tree, two of its boughs heavy with fruit. The monk stepped forward and broke them off. He went round, distributing the pears to the people. When they were finished he walked quickly away, and the crowd dispersed.
The seller of pears, his mouth still open with amazement, pulled himself together. He looked round and saw his cart. The two long handles had been broken off and it was empty of pears.