John Suler's Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors
One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice. As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine. Suddenly, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious!
(One reader claimed that Thomas Cleary once told him that the original ending of this story was quite different. According to Cleary, D.T. Suzuki changed the ending because he thought the original would not appeal to Westerners. The story was then picked up by others, such as Paul Reps. In the original version, the strawberry turns out to be, in fact, deadly poison)
People's reactions to this story:
"After having only 5 hours of sleep I understand now. 'Live life to the fullest!'"
"'Eat, drink, and be merry; for tomorrow we die!' Not sure who to credit the quote, but it seems to apply."
"Live each moment to the full. The plight the man was in was no reason not to enjoy the wild strawberry."
"The man knew that he was about to die, and that there was nothing he could do about it. The strawberry was his last chance to enjoy life so instead of wasting his last moments in fear and frustration he took what little pleasure he could and made the best of it."
"Enlightenment can be found in distraction from distraction. The Universe is now! And strawberries are delicious."
"The most thought provoking story yet. We get so caught up with ourselves we assume the world around us changes. Why should the strawberry taste different?"
"I think most people take meaning of living in present as 'Don't worry about what next'. I think he was not living in present. He was living in past when he liked the fruit very much or future by thinking he may not get the fruit again. But the present was how to save his life."
"Aren't we all hanging from a fragile vine awaiting an inevitable plunge to doom while mice gnaw at our temporary safety? What else should we do but eat a strawberry?"
"This story puts me in mind of the band playing as the Titanic sank. There is something cloyingly 'live in the present moment' about it, BUT, on the other hand, why didn't the man throw the strawberry at the mice?"
"It's clear why the strawberry was delicious. I would think that mice would've been even more delicious at that point."
"The man should have taken those damn mice with him!"
"Perhaps if the man had thought to give the mice the strawberry then they would not knaw on the vine and he would live, but instead he was self absorbed and so he was destined to fall."
"The tiger is the past. The two mice are day and time which slowly kill us. And the cliff is the future. The strawberry is the present. Forget the past, not worry the future, and concentrate in the present moment. Only by that way can we live happily."
"I heard this story but it was a little different, not only did he face a lion but a bear jumped at his feet while two ground hogs nibbled at his branch just at the momoment the branch would break he noticed a plump ripe strawberry - aah delicious. My view - no matter the memories of yesterday or the anticipation of tommorrow or even the events of the day remember to always enjoy the moment."
"Hmmm. The story 'Cliffhanger' is very similar to a Jain parable I read once. The parable was supposed to embody the Jainist view of the world. There was also a sword wielding demoness, the cliff was replaced by a pit full of snakes and the strawberry was a dollop of wild honey. the tiger represented old age, the demoness: illness and infirmity. The honey represented the fleeting pleasures of life."
"The vine represents the reality that we live in every day. The tigers are the fear, stress and lack of focus in our lives that interfere with our desire to achieve peace and that is represented by the field. We are forced by our fear out of the paece of our field into grasping to the vine that is reality. The mice are the thoughts of good and evil and the deeper nature of man that we try to ignore but constantly gnaw at our consciousness and effect our grip on reality.The strawberry is the true nature of the smaller things in life. The true value of these things is not truly appreciated unitl we are forced from our stagnat peace by our fears and confront ourselves, then we can truly appreciate what our reality has to offer us."
"People have a tendency to focus too much on the bad things that are happening, and don't take enough time to see that there is beauty right in front of them. If you grasp the beauty in a dark situation, you will be happy."
"Wonderful. I admire the man who is able to embrace the moment, and who, regardless of circumstance, realizes the moment is sweet. If one must die, said one ought to go with pleasure on the toungue. This is wisdom."
"Everything tastes sweeter when you know it is your last."
"Is this what it takes to appreciate wonderful?"
"Life is beautiful! It's a shame that we realize it just in very extreme situations."
"In the worst of adversity, it is always important to enjoy the little pleasures in life. Urgency of life, love, the heat of the soul, warm breath to keep the demons on their toes. Everything seems to go faster and become more important daily, whilst at the same time becoming harder to fathom. -- MORCHEEBA liner notes"
"Enjoy beauty while you can."
"What a story! Indeed, it points out that the essence of zen must be to live until you are dead!"
"Two possibilities: (1) even in the midst of tremendous adversity, a truly enlightened person knows how to Be Here Now; or (2) this guy was in a serious state of denial. These two possibilities seem to be polar opposites leading to the same result."
"IN THE MOMENT IN THE BODY HERE NOW - HOWEVER, I SPEND TO MUCH TIME OVER THERE - IF YOU FIND ME TELL ME WHERE I AM"
|| The Present Moment || Without Fear || Concentration ||