Zen story – Su Dongpo and Master Fo-yin

My son turns 10 years old today, and I told him the following story that made him laugh and think. I hope you do to.

Feeling particularly inspired that morning, Su Dongpo wrote the following brief poem and sent it to his teacher, Zen Master Fo-yin, who lived just across the Yangtze river.

“I bow to the god among gods;
his hair-light illuminates the world.
Unmoved when the eight winds blow,
upright I sit in a purple-gold lotus.”

After receiving the poem, Master Fo-yin replied with two words:

“Fart! Fart!”

When Su Dongpo received the Master’s reply, he became furious and without further ado, jumped on a boat, crossed the Yangtze river and barged into Master Fo-yin’s house saying:

“How could you possibly send someone a note with these two words? This is slanderous!”

“Slanderous?” replied Master Fo-yin. “Who was I slandering? You said you were unmoved by the eight winds when they blew. But look at you now! Just two farts blew you across the Yangtze river!”

Recognizing his error and realizing he boasted about a spiritual progress he had not yet achieved, Su Dongpo apologized to the Master for his outburst and promised to strive to always act with full humility.

– The eight winds are praise, ridicule, misery, happiness, honor, disgrace, gain and loss — all external elements affecting our internal quietude if taken at heart and without wisdom.
– Su Tung-p’o or Su Dongpo (1037-1101) was a poet during the Song Dynasty. He is better known as Su Shi (his art name).
– Master Fo-yin (1011-1086) was a Great Master of the Zen tradition. He was known for his strict discipline and wonderful sense of humor, as is the case with many Zen masters and others who have reached such serenity, that joy springs naturally and in its many forms.
– Here, I have most humbly put into my own words a story I once read written by Zen Master Hsuan Hua.

Le cœur est une vaste maison

Le cœur est une vaste maison avec de larges fenêtres qui restent grandes ouvertes en toutes saisons.

Les êtres qui croisent notre temps y viennent et s’y reposent au milieu de vieilles choses à l’ombre du vent.

Et ceux qui nous ont aimés portent une traîne ondulante et frêle comme un pétale de cerisier.

En entrant, ils posent sur nos têtes une couronne d’amour, une couronne si légère qu’avec délice, elle devient lumière et illumine cette vaste maison aux vastes fenêtres.


Un poème que j’ai écrit il y a quelques années et que j’ai eu envie de publier aujourd’hui, comme ode à l’amitié sincère.

La vieille dame de la petite épicerie

Courbée comme une équerre, celle qui ne rentrait pas dans la trousse de l’école primaire.
Je l’aide à mettre son panier rose sur le comptoir de la caisse.
Un choux, quelques tomates, un bouquet de coriandre fraîche et un litre de lait.
Elle me sourit d’un sourire de violette qui se fane en gardant sa couleur.
Elle part et laisse derrière elle une senteur de linge séché au soleil.


A book of poetry

To read a few lines each day like a cat lapping milk, nourishing the soul.

Words of the ancients or the new, all wise poets bequeathing us with words like a soothing pearl necklace.

But the world threw a spear at slowness. Nowadays, few read the words of the wise.

Maybe this year, instead of giving trinkets, give a book of poetry. Whether it is read or used as a door stop, it does not matter; the very presence of the book will shine bright in the house of your friend.


Inspiration: slowness and reading poetry.