Koan and Other Zen Stories
1. A Cup of Tea
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a
university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor's cup full, and then kept on
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain
himself. "It is overfull. No more will go in!"
"Like this cup," Nan-in said, "you are full of your own opinions and
speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?"
2. Hotei, the Happy Chinaman
Hotei lived in the T'ang dynasty. He had no desire to call himself a Zen
master or to gather many disciples about him. Instead he walked the
streets with a big sack into which he would put gifts of candy, fruit, or
doughnuts. These he would give to children who gathered around him to
play. He established a kindergarten of the streets.
Whenever he met a Zen devotee he would extend his hand and say: "Give me
one penny." And if anyone asked him to return to a temple to teach, again
he would reply: "Give me one penny."
Once as he was about his play-work another Zen master happened along and
inquired: "What is the significance of Zen?"
Hotei immediately plopped his sack down on the ground in silent
"Then," asked the other, "what is the actualization of Zen?"
At once Hotei swung the sack over his shoulder and continued on his