The story of a man

By Pok Oi, an Asian Buddhist master

Someone asked me why Zen is hard to learn. Someone complained that Dharma is deep, hard to see, hard to realize and hard to practice. If you are looking for a short cut for studying Dharma. I would like to tell you a story.

A man who had suffered much in his life finally found his way to a monastery and asked the priest there, “I want to devote my life to the study of Zen, but I have never had the capacity to stick with anything for a long time. Is there a quick way to enlightenment?”

The teacher told him that he had be accepted into the monastery for two days, during which he had be taught the quick way to enlightenment. He then asked the man if there was anything he enjoyed. The man said that he was not good at anything because his inability to stick to things had prevented him from becoming good at anything, but he did like to play chess.

The teacher brought in a young disciple who was very learned at chess and sat the men down at a table. He took out a sword and told them that they had play until one had beaten the other – and whoever lost the game would lose his head. Neither man could believe what he had just heard! Since the chessboard became their life, they concentrated as never before on every move they made. At first the young disciple made moves that gave him an advantage, but then he made one big mistake.

The man seized the moment, and in that instant, the game changed in his favor. Now the young disciple was literally fighting for his life. The man had the advantage and clearly saw the moves needed to win. He looked over at the boy and saw the dedication and devotion he had lived his life with… and then he thought about his own life. He realized that if someone should die, it should be himself, so he made a move that he knew would cost him the game. In that moment, the young disciple was able to take the advantage back.

The teacher who was watching everything, walked up to the board and threw it and the pieces onto the ground. “There is no winner or loser here,” he told the man. “The game is over. No heads will fall. There are only two things needed to find enlightenment: concentration and compassion. Today you learned them both. Stay with me and study the way you have played chess today, and enlightenment will be yours quickly.” 

The story of this man tells us that practicing Dharma is simple. It is not difficult. With our practice, we bring the element of concentration and compassion. 

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