John Suler's Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors


Wanting God

zen story wanting God

A hermit was meditating by a river when a young man interrupted him. "Master, I wish to become your disciple," said the man. "Why?" replied the hermit. The young man thought for a moment. "Because I want to find God."

The master jumped up, grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, dragged him into the river, and plunged his head under water. After holding him there for a minute, with him kicking and struggling to free himself, the master finally pulled him up out of the river. The young man coughed up water and gasped to get his breath. When he eventually quieted down, the master spoke. "Tell me, what did you want most of all when you were under water."

"Air!" answered the man.

"Very well," said the master. "Go home and come back to me when you want God as much as you just wanted air."

People's reactions to this story:

"Sometimes people aren't serious when it comes to God and religion. They should be willing to dedicate their whole lives to him if they are truly serious. You must do it with passion."

"For the young man to truly want God he must put all other wishes and needs aside. God must become the center of his life."

"This reminds me of the passages in the Bible when Jesus tells people that they must give up everything in order to follow him to God."

"This life needs to take the backseat if you pursue God. If you are seriously pursuing God, you are preparing for the afterlife."

"A person who really wants God and has lived a righteous life should not fear death. The young man doesn't want to get close to God, he wants to live. Anyone who wants God should expect death at any moment and know that this death will bring him closer to God, if he has lived a good life."

"The will to live is sometimes stronger than wanting God in your life."

"Any person who truly wished to find God would immediately think of him when they were almost drowned!"

" People sometimes want something but are afraid to give something else up in order to achieve it."

"This is a reality check. Wanting God means becoming his servant. You have to put your priorities in order and know 100% what you are looking for, and what you will sacrifice along the way."

"Reminds me of sports - you can say you want to be the best, but you have to really want it to accomplish it. Takes practice and hard work. Anyone can just say it."

"Of course the young man wanted air - he was being drowned! That would have been any normal person's response!... But does that mean that any normal person wants God?"

"If you want to find God bad enough, you don't need someone else's help."

"This hermit has a bug up his ass. He wants fanatical followers or none at all. He SHOULD stay away from people."

"The hermit was a bit extreme. How is the man supposed to find God at home if he has already gone looking. This story makes me angry."

"What was the hermit going to do? Was he going to kill the young man to see how much he wanted to be with God?"

"The hermit wanted to know if the young man could trust him."

"Like air, God helps us and makes us able to breathe life."

"God is not an essential for life, like air is. It's something that people only think they need. If everyone found out tomorrow that there really is a god, or that there isn't, we'd all go on living the same way anyhow."

"This story seems totally irrelevant to me."

"This story focuses on the difference between needs and wants."

"People always want something in life. They're never satisfied with what they have."

"This story shows the frivolity with which people, and societies, go about life without any compassion for anything. It seems like it's only in times of crisis or depression that people are able to FEEL for anyone. We don't appreciate the everyday phenomena with the zest we should."

"I wonder if God would expect the man to want him more than air."

"Why doesn't God make himself known to me? Why must I pursue Him?"

wanting god || Searching for Buddha || Gutei's Finger || Bell Teacher ||

~ Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors ~