Zen Flesh Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings - by Paul Reps (Compiler)

A Parable

Buddha told a parable in a sutra:

A man travelling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild wine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him. Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

My Heart Burns Like Fire

Soyen Shaku, the first Zen teacher to come to America, said: 'My heart burns like fire, but my eyes are as cold as dead ashes.' He made the following rules which he practised every day of his life.

  • In the morning before dressing, light incense and meditate.

  • Retire at a regular hour. Partake of food at regular intervals. Eat with moderation and never to the point of satisfaction.

  • Receive a guest with the same attitude you have when alone. When alone, maintain the same attitude you have in receiving guests.

  • Watch what you say, and whatever you say, practise it.

  • When an opportunity comes do not let it pass by, yet always think twice before acting.

  • Do not regret the past. Look to the future.

  • Have the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child.

  • Upon retiring, sleep as if you had entered your last sleep.

  • Upon awakening, leave your bed behind you instantly as if you had cast away a pair of old shoes.


Sweet-hearted one, meditate on knowing and not knowing, existing and not existing. Then leave both aside that you may be.

See as if for the first time a beauteous person or an ordinary object.

Just as you have the impulse to do something, stop.

When some desire comes, consider it. Then, suddenly, quit it.

In moods of extreme desire, be undisturbed.

Wherever your mind is wandering, internally or externally, at this very place, this.

When vividly aware through some particular sense, keep in the awareness.

At the start of sneezing, during fright, in anxiety, above a chasm, flying in battle, in extreme curiosity, at the beginning of hunger, at the end of hunger, be uninterruptedly aware.

When a mood against someone or for someone arises, do not place it on the person in question, but remain centred.

Wherever your attention alights, at this very point, experience.