English Zen

Plans and Nuts

A Zen Master took a walnut and clenched his hand around it. He stepped towards his student and asked him: „What am I holding here?“

„I don’t know“, answered the student.

„I know, of course“, said the teacher. „And if I open my hand, you will know as well.“

The student nodded.

„And what will I be holding in my hand this time tomorrow?“
The student didn’t know. The master smiled and said: „I don’t know either! I can plan to be holding this or that come tomorrow. And I could be telling you about my plans. But if I am wise, I will avoid telling you. I cannot know, whether my plans work out. If I fail, it may be better if only few people know about it. Don’t forget, people tend to mock. It helps them cope with their own failures. There is another, more important reason though: The wise person makes a daily effort to reach greater insight. If I told you now of my plan for tomorrow, what if I change my mind. What if tomorrow today’s plan seems dull to me? Should I go through with a foolish action tomorrow only because I already said I would? It is better to keep quiet about what will be tomorrow.“

The Master opened his hand and gave the walnut to his student. He added:“Were I to talk of the walnut I shall be holding in my hand the next day, would it still be the same nut, were I to actually hold it? And if it weren’t, what had I been talking about?“

The student cracked the nut and gave half of it to his teacher.

Aktueller Text von Dushan Wegner

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