"Vanity" — Unknown
Filed in:Zen Story
There was a zen monk whose vanity was his poverty and humility. He lived in a cave outside his monastery, ate only food he could glean from what others threw away, and washed his robes only by walking in the rain. Once every week he would leave his cave and enter the monastery. There he would choose a young monk to walk with him that day so that he might give the younger man the benefit of is wisdom, which he was sure was both vast and deep. He delighted in tormenting the young students, and then lecturing the abbot about the poor quality of his teachings. One day while walking, the young man which he had chosen stopped to squat down and crap. When he finished, he looked up to the old monk and said, "Sensei, may I have a leaf to wipe my ass?'
The old monk smiled mockingly. "The buddah teaches us to respect life in all of its wondrous forms. Is it respectful to the leaf to do such a thing?"
The young man thought for a moment. "Then what about a stick?" he asked. A stick has no life, and surely the Buddah would not begrudge its use."
The monk shook his head with disdain. "My son, the Buddah cherishes all life. He cherishes life that was, life that is, and life that will be. Look around you and choose again."
The young man thought for a moment, then reached out and took the monk's sleeve and wiped his ass with it. The monk was utterly stunned. He looked at the shit on his sleeve, and then looked at the young man. "Why did you do that?" he shouted. "Why did you just smear your shit on my sleeve?"
The young man stood and smiled kindly. "Sensei, I looked all around me, and the only thing I could find that the Buddah would neither respect nor cherish was you."