Posts tagged zen story

A Zen Master, a Scorpion, and a Fisherman



A Zen master was meditating in the river, when he heard the sound of struggling. He saw a scorpion splashing in the water when he opened his eyes. He reached out and pulled it out, but he was stung by the scorpion. He put the scorpion on the shore, continued to meditate.

After a while, he heard the sound of struggling again. He opened his eyes and saw that the scorpion had fallen into the water again. He picked it up again to put it back on the shore; he was stung again, of course. But he continued to meditate. Again, after some time, the same misfortune happened again.

A fisherman nearby said to him, “Are you stupid, don’t you know the scorpion will sting?” The Zen master replied, “I know, the scorpion stung me three times.” The fisherman was puzzled. “Why do you still want to save it?” The Zen master replied, “The sting is its nature, but compassion is my nature, and my nature will not change because of its nature.”

At this time, he heard the sound of the struggling again. Yes, it was that same scorpion. He looked at his swollen hands and then looked at the struggling scorpion in the water; he reached out again without hesitation. Before he could pick up the scorpion, the fisherman gave him a dry branch. The Zen master used this branch to pick up the scorpion and place it on the shore instead.

Image result for a scorpion splashing in the water

Image is from A Safer Way to Milk a Scorpion – D-brief

The fisherman smiled and said, “It is right and proper to be merciful. But if you want to be compassionate to a scorpion, you have to treat yourself the same. To be able to be compassionate to the others, we should have the means to do that.”

When you can be kind to yourself, then you can be kind to the others. I liked the story; it reminds me of the saying: “It is not easy to be a nice person.” Indeed, It is in their nature for a kind person to do a good deed. But the object of doing good is not necessarily good; the result of doing good does not necessarily bring you the good fruit. Why is this so? As the fisherman said: “You need the means of compassion to be able to be compassionate to others.”

Compassion is right, but you need to apply it to both the scorpion and yourself. It reminds us that the means of compassion are first to be accountable to yourself and then to be accountable to others. If a person cannot even take care of himself, how can he take care of others? When you can treat yourself well, then you are qualified and able to treat others well.

The Zen master often have an insight for the philosophical things that make people suddenly see truth, but they are confused about simple things. Everyday people on the other hand, understand simple and down to earth truths that show that zen is in everyone.


The original text is in Chinese (, I translated it into English so you can enjoy this enlightening story.

Where is the Rosary? – Zen Story


“The prayer beads are gone, but the Buddha is still with us!”


There was a temple known for possessing a string of beads that had been worn by Buddha, and only the old abbot and seven disciples knew where they had enshrined the beads.

The seven disciples were very savvy, and the old abbot felt that he could have entrusted any of them to brighten Dharma.

Unexpectedly, the beads suddenly disappeared.

The old abbot asked seven disciples: “As long as the beads are put back in its place, I will not pursue the matter, and neither will the Buddha.”

The disciples shook their heads, and no one admitted to anything!

Seven days passed, and still nobody knew the whereabouts of the rosary.

Image result for image of buddhist rosary


The old abbot said, “He who took it and admits will have the rosary.”

But seven days passed, and still no one admitted.

The old abbot was disappointed and demanded: “You will all go down to the Mountain tomorrow. He who took the beads can stay if he wants to.”

The next day, six of the disciples packed their things and said goodbye. Only one stayed behind.

The abbot asked him: “Where is the rosary?”

The disciple said, “I did not take it.”

“Why did you stay behind to be called a thief, if you did not take it?”

The disciple said: “We have been suspicious of each other. Someone needs to bear the responsibility so that the rest of us will get relief. Besides, the rosary is gone, but the Buddha is still with us.”

The old abbot smiled and took the rosary from within his robes and put it on the disciple.

This story gives me a lot of enlightenment.

Not all things need to be made clear.

Some things are more important than the ability to speak clearly: the ability to bear and act; the resolve to do so; to reverse; to change; to think of themselves, but also others; to take care of the overall situation, this is the law.

This is not only a realm; it is great wisdom.

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