How many zen monks does it take to change a light bulb?
- Two. One to change it, and one not to change it.
- Four. One to change it.
- None. The change must come from within
In an ancient monastery
in a faraway place
, a new monk
join his brothers in copying books and scrolls in the monastery's
. He was assigned as a rubricator
on copies of books that
had already been copied by hand. One day he, asked Father Florian
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
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,
." 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
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
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
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
"It is," Kyogen answered.
"Tell us," said a friend, "how do you feel?"
"As miserable as ever," replied the enlightened Kyogen.