John Suler's Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors
A dramatic ballad singer studied under a strict teacher who insisted that he rehearse day after day, month after month the same passage from the same song, without being permitted to go any further.
Finally, overwhelmed by frustration and despair, the young man ran off to find another profession. One night, stopping at an inn, he stumbled upon a recitation contest. Having nothing to lose, he entered the competition and, of course, sang the one passage that he knew so well. When he had finished, the sponsor of the contest highly praised his performance. Despite the student's embarrassed objections, the sponsor refused to believe that he had just heard a beginner perform.
"Tell me," the sponsor said, "who is your instructor? He must be a great master."
The student later became known as the great performer Koshiji.
People's reactions to this story:
"Hard work will always pay off sometime in the future. I can see myself telling this story to someone who wants to quit something before they've really gotten into it."
"You can always take your abilities one step further, one inch closer to perfection. We should never be satisfied with a good or even a great performance. Let's be patient and strive for ultimate perfection, no matter what the cost."
"I can relate to this. I play golf. If you can develop an incredibly good short game, your performance on all 18 holes will improve greatly. It's also important to have one really impressive skill because it gives you the confidence to tackle other skills."
"He practiced so much that it became part of him. To really master something, it has to become part of you."
"People sometimes spread themselves too thin by trying to do too many things at once. You have to master one thing at a time. That builds a solid foundation that you can then build on."
"This reminds me of studying philosophy. You have to intensely study one small portion, master it, and then gradually build up your knowledge in new areas."
"Practice doesn't make perfect - perfect practice makes perfect."
"My dad brought me up with a quote - 'Only those who attempt the absurd achieve the impossible.'"
"You can't practice all the time. If you do, you'll eventually burn out!"
"Just practicing isn't always enough. You have to be involved in what you are doing. You have to learn from the heart."
"I don't think this teacher could have been very good. If he was, the student would not have become so frustrated that he quit."
"People who are more knowledgeable than us in a particular area have reasons for behaving the way they do - even if the reasons are not apparent to us."
"This story reminds me of when I was in gymnastics. My coach kept pushing me to the limit. Well, I broke my arm and that was the end of my gymnastics career."
"Parents are sometimes like this - they push and push a kid until the kid finally rebels."
"This story reminds me of the movie The Karate Kid. His instructor made him practice all sorts of weird things, which he thought was useless - but the instructor turned out to be right."
"I felt this way about my parents. They raised me well, but at the time I thought I knew it all and didn't want to listen to what they had to teach me. Eventually, I realized they were right."
"I like this story because it emphasizes the kind of self-discipline that is missing in American culture. Our preoccupation with "freedom" makes it difficult for us to be disciplined and focused on difficult tasks."
"I'm a bit paranoid about practice. Sometimes the more I practice the more careless I get. Then bad habits start to creep in."
"It wasn't practicing that did it for him. He just got lucky. I don't think he deserves any prizes because he's a quitter."
"I don't agree with this story. It's not realistic. In today's world you need more than just one skill in order to get ahead."
"So what's the message here? Even though you may feel that something or someone is wasting your time, the eldest are still the most wise?"
"I have to disagree with the consensus. Singing or music in general is anything but a skill, maybe talent, art, passion, relaxation, or a gift. If you take that away you have nothing. Practicing one passage over and over is nothing more than an elephant that stand next to a tree because he thinks he's chained to it. Not Music!"
|| Chasing Two Rabbits || Learning the Hard Way || Working Very Hard ||