Two Zen Stories

Tesshu was asked by a brilliant young fencer: “What is the inmost secret of the Way of Fencing?”
He said: “Go to the Kannon temple at Asakusa and pray to be enlightened about it.”
After a week the young man came back and said: “I went every day and prayed there a long time. Nothing came to me. On the last day as I was coming away disappointed, I noticed the inscription above the shrine: The Gift of Fearlessness. Was that what you meant?”
“Yes,” repiled Tesshu. “Complete fearlessness is the secret of fencing. It must be complete. There are those who are not afraid when they face an enemy with a sword, but who are cowards when they confront the assaults of passions like greed, and delusions like fame. Complete fearlessness in the face of the inner as well as the outer enemies is the end of our Way of Fencing.”

This was when Ekido was abbot of the Zen temple Tentoku-in, in the nineteenth century. One morning he heard the dawn bell being rung and after a little he called his attendant from the next room and asked:
“Who is ringing the bell this morning?”
The attendant said it was a newly entered boy. The abbot later called the boy and asked: “When you rang the dawn bell today, what were you thinking about?”
“Nothing special. I was just ringing the bell.”
The abbot said: “No, there must have been something in your mind. Well anyway, when you ring the bell, always do it as you did today. It was no ordinary ringing.”
Then the boy said: “I once heard that whatever we do, it must be service of the Buddha. I was told to meditate on the things as Buddha. So this morning I was thinking that the bell is Buddha, and that each time I rang it the Buddha’s voice is sounding out. Each time I was making a bow, and I felt I was ringing it as a worship.”
The abbot said: “That was a fine teaching that you heard. Whatever you do later in life, do it like that.”
This boy later became the head of the great Eiheiji training temple; his name was Dengo Morita.
translated from Zenmon jitsuwa-sen-Horiguchi Sharaju)


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