How many zen monks does it take to change a light bulb?
  1. Two. One to change it, and one not to change it.
  2. Four. One to change it.
  3. None. The change must come from within

In an ancient monastery in a faraway place, a new monk arrived to join his brothers in copying books and scrolls in the monastery's scriptorium. He was assigned as a rubricator on copies of books that had already been copied by hand. One day he, asked Father Florian (the Armarius of the Scriptorium), "Does not the copying by hand of other copies allow for chances of error? How do we know we are not copying the mistakes of someone else? Are they ever checked against the original?"

Fr. Florian is set back a bit by the obvious logical observation of this youthful monk. "A very good point, my son. I will take one of the latest books down to the vault and compare it against the original."

Fr. Florian went down to the secured vault and began his verification. After a day had passed, the monks began to worry and went down looking for the old priest. They were sure something must have happened. As they approached the vault, they heard sobbing and crying. When they opened the door, they found Fr. Florian sobbing over the new copy and the original ancient book, both of which opened before him on the table. It was obvious to all that the poor man had been crying his old heart out for a long time.

"What is the problem, Reverend Father?" asked one of the monks. "Oh, my Lord," sobbed the priest, "the word is 'celebrate'.


A monk newly initiated into his order was told that he'd have to spend the inital 20 years of training in complete silence. He was told that he would only be allowed to say two words every three years. After 3 years of studiously keeping this vow he was summoned before the Abbot and asked if he had anything to say, in two words or less. He replied, "Food sucks." Three more years went by when he was again summoned before the Abbot. "Well, do you have anything to say now," the monk was asked. "Bed hard," was the answer. After three more years the Abbot found our friend and asked him if he'd like to speak. "I quit!" said the monk. "Well, I'm not suprised," said his Abbottship. "You've done nothing but complain since you arrived.
A man is driving down the road and breaks down near a monastery. He goes to the monastery, knocks on the door, and says, "My car broke down. Do you think I could stay the night?"

The monks graciously accept him, feed him dinner, and even fix his car. As the man tries to fall asleep, he hears a strange sound. The next morning, he asks the monks what the sound was but they say, "We can't tell you. You're not a monk."

The man is disappointed but thanks them anyway and goes about his merry way.

Some years later the same man breaks down in front of the same monastery. The monks again accept him, feed him, and even fix his car. That night, he hears the same strange noise that he had heard years earlier.

The next morning he asks what it is but the monks reply, "We can't tell you. You're not a monk."

The man says, "All right, all right. I'm dying to know. If the only way I can find out what that sound was is to become a monk, then how do I become a monk?"

The monks reply, "You must travel the earth and tell us how many blades of grass there are and the exact number of sand pebbles. When you find these numbers, you will become a monk."

The man sets about his task. Some forty-five years later, he returns and knocks on the door of the monastery. He says, "I have traveled the earth and have found what you have asked for. There are 256,897,103,145,236,284,232 blades of grass and 231,281,219,999,129,382,756,124,512,999 sand pebbles on the earth."

The monks reply, "Congratulations. You are now a monk. We shall now show you the way to the sound."

The monks lead the man to a wooden door, where the head monk says, "The sound is right behind that door."

The man turns the knob, and behind that door he is amazed to find the source of that strange sound.

But we can't tell you what it is because you're not a monk.


One day it was announced by Master Joshu that the young monk Kyogen had reached an enlightened state. Much impressed by this news, several of his peers went to speak to him.

"We have heard that you are enlightened. Is this true?" his fellow students inquired.

"It is," Kyogen answered.

"Tell us," said a friend, "how do you feel?"

"As miserable as ever," replied the enlightened Kyogen.

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