"These Zen Buddhist Koans Will Open Your Mind" by Carol Kuruvilla (excerpt by Kosin Paley Ellison) Huffington Post

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Once a monk made a request of Joshu.
“I have just entered the monastery,” he said. “Please give me instructions, Master.”
Joshu said, “Have you had your breakfast?”
“Yes, I have,” replied the monk.
“Then,” said Joshu, “wash your bowls.”
The monk had an insight.
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"Mumon’s Poem"

Because it is so very clear,
It takes longer to come to the realization.
If you know at once candlelight is fire,
The meal has long been cooked.

— The Gateless Gate

“I love this koan. I am the student in the midst of my life, waiting for life to happen. I am the teacher pointing to this latte on my desk. I am the bowl that needs washing and the breakfast already eaten. How do we enter our life fully? It is right here. How do we want to live? Can we allow all the joys and sorrows to enliven us? Or do we just go along with all our patterns and habits? People who are dying always remind me: ‘I can’t believe I wasn’t here for most of my life.’ That’s one of the most common things I hear, and the biggest regrets. Many people have not inhabited their life because they’re just waiting for other moments. Are we waiting for life to happen in the midst of life? How can we give ourselves fully to our lives, moment to moment? Don’t wait. Life is always right here.”

by Koshin Paley Ellison
Co-Founder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care

Mumon’s Poem
Because it is so very clear,
It takes longer to come to the realization.
If you know at once candlelight is fire,
The meal has long been cooked.
— The Gateless Gate

“I love this koan. I am the student in the midst of my life, waiting for life to happen. I am the teacher pointing to this latte on my desk. I am the bowl that needs washing and the breakfast already eaten. How do we enter our life fully? It is right here. How do we want to live? Can we allow all the joys and sorrows to enliven us? Or do we just go along with all our patterns and habits? People who are dying always remind me: ‘I can’t believe I wasn’t here for most of my life.’ That’s one of the most common things I hear, and the biggest regrets. Many people have not inhabited their life because they’re just waiting for other moments. Are we waiting for life to happen in the midst of life? How can we give ourselves fully to our lives, moment to moment? Don’t wait. Life is always right here.”

SOURCE: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/zen-buddhism-koan_n_563251dce4b0631799115f3c
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"FORCE" by Deng Ming Dao

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—“Wandering Swordsman” by Elagune


A sword is never sheathed
Until it has tasted blood.
A good swordsman
Is seldom seen with a sword.

Many centuries ago, there was a wanderer who was constantly chased by assassins. He was the best swordsman in the country. His challengers wanted to overcome him and thereby establish their own fame. Although the swordsman had long ago repented his killing and had renounced his status, he was still considered the best.
Over and over, his enemies came for him, and just as many times he defeated them using things at hand -- umbrella, fan, sticks. He did not draw a real sword for he knew he was far too lethal when armed.

So it is that the wise remain humble so that others are not aroused against them. They avoid conflict whenever possible. If trouble comes to seek them, they use only the bare amount of force in return. To go further is to fall into excess.

365-tao meditations
365 Tao By Deng Ming Dao
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What We Talk about When We Talk about God" by Rob Bell

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“This is one of the reasons we watch movies, attend recovery groups, read memoirs, and sit around campfires telling stories long after the fire has dwindled down to a few glowing embers. It’s written in the Psalms that “deep calls to deep,” which is what happens when you get a glimpse of what someone else has gone through or is currently in the throes of and you find yourself inextricably, mysteriously linked with that person because you have been reminded again of our common humanity and its singular source, the subsurface unity of all things that is ever before us in countless manifestations but requires eyes wide open to see it burst into view.”

― Rob Bell, What We Talk about When We Talk about God
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"The Orthodox Heretic" by Peter Rollins

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“Many centuries ago an independent island was attacked by the dictator of a nearby nation, a nation with vast resources and a mighty army. Upon landing on the island, this army moved with little resistance toward the capital city. With less than a day to decide what action to take, the leaders of the island desperately discussed what could be done in the face of the encroaching army. They were hugely outnumbered, out-resourced, and out-skilled, so defeat seemed inevitable.

The leaders never made a decision without first consulting with their religious oracle, so they approached her small dwelling on the edge of the city. The oracle was a woman who possessed great insight and had the ability to see into realms usually reserved only for the angels. Upon hearing about the invasion, she spent an entire day in deep meditation before finally coming to the leaders with a heavy heart, saying,
‘I bring sad news: I have been told that God himself has joined with our enemies and has put all of his power at their disposal.’

This ominous message sent deep fear and trembling through the hearts of the elders. In response one proclaimed, ‘We must surrender now and pray that they will have mercy on us.’ Then another responded, ‘No, let us make ready our fastest ships and set sail with as many people as we can. Perhaps we can sneak past their navy while it is dark.’ But the chief, a strong man with deep faith, remained calm throughout the debate. At the end of the discussion he said, ‘Please trust me, I know what to do in order to ensure that we make it through this dark hour.’

The chief was well respected by all, and so, in absence of a plan, they reluctantly agreed to trust him.
That day he called together all the men of the city who could fight. He then sent those with young children home, followed by those who had been married for less than a year. By the end of this process the remaining men numbered less than a few thousand, a tiny group in comparison to the army they would soon face.

These brave men were then armed and told to march behind their chief toward the encroaching army. That day there was a bloody battle and many tragically lost their lives. But, to everyone’s utter surprise, by the end of the day the dictator’s seemingly impenetrable army had been dealt a devastating blow and had turned away in retreat.

The entire island was dumbstruck as they heard how the enemy had run in fear and trembling back to their homeland. The oracle however was more confused than most, for she knew what had been kept secret from the people: that God had joined the side of the enemy and put all his vast power at their disposal. So the oracle approached the chief and said, ‘How did you know to fight when the odds where impossibly high and when you knew that God himself was pitted against you?’

But the chief merely smiled and replied, ‘Surely you know that it does not matter which side God is on. When God is involved, the oppressed always win.'”

SOURCE: (Peter Rollins, The Orthodox Heretic, pp 111-3)
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"The Farmer's Three Wishes" - An ancient Jewish parable:

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One night a poor farmer was awakened by an angel of the Lord who said: "You've found favor in the eyes of your Maker. He wants to do for you what he did for your ancestor Abraham. He wants to bless you.

Therefore, make any three requests of God, and he will be pleased to give them to you. There's only one condition: your neighbor will get a double portion of everything that is given to you."

The farmer was so startled by all this that he woke up his wife and told her all about it. She insisted they put it to the test.

So they prayed, "Oh, blessed God, if we could just have a herd of a thousand cattle, that would enable us to break out of the poverty in which we've lived for generations. That would be wonderful."

No sooner had they said these words than they heard the sound of animal noises outside. Lo and behold, all around the house were a thousand magnificent cattle!

During the next two days, the farmer's feet hardly touched the ground. He divided his time between praising God for his great generosity and making practical provisions for his newly found affluence.

On the third afternoon he was up on a hill behind his house, trying to decide where to build a new barn when, for the first time, he looked across at his neighbor's field, and there on the green hillside stood two thousand magnificent cattle.

For the first time since the angel of the Lord had appeared, his joy evaporated and a scowl of envy took its place.

He went home that evening in a foul mood, refused to eat supper, and went to bed in an absolute rage. He couldn't fall asleep, because every time he closed his eyes, all he could see were his neighbor's two thousand head of cattle.

Deep in the night, however, he remembered that the angel had said he could make three wishes. With that he shifted his focus away from his neighbor and back to his own situation, and the old joy quickly returned.

Digging into his own heart to find out what else he really wanted, he began to realize that in addition to some kind of material security, he had always wanted descendants to carry on his name into history.

So he prayed a second time saying, "Gracious God, if it please thee, give me a child that I may have descendants." It wasn't long before his wife came to him with the news that she was bearing in her body a life not her own.

The next months were passed in unbroken joy. The farmer was busy with his newly acquired affluence and looking forward to the great grace of becoming a parent. On the night his first child was born, he was absolutely overjoyed.

The next day was the Sabbath. He went to the synagogue and at the time of the prayers of the people, he stood up and shared with the gathered community his great good fortune: now at last a child had been born into their home!

He had hardly sat down, however, when his neighbor got up. "God has indeed been gracious to our little community. I had twin sons born last night. Thanks be to God."

On hearing that, the farmer went home in an utterly different mood from the one in which he came. Instead of being joyful, he was filled with the canker of jealousy.

This time, the dark emotions didn't go away. Late that evening, he made his third request of God, which was, "Lord, please gouge out my right eye."

No sooner had he said these words than the angel who started the whole process came again. "Why, son of Abraham, have your turned to such dark desirings?"

With pent-up rage, the farmer replied, "I can't stand to see my neighbor prosper! I'll gladly sacrifice half my vision for the satisfaction of knowing that he'll never be able to look on what he has because he'll have both eyes gouged out."

Those words were followed by a long silence, and as the farmer looked, he saw tears forming in the eyes of the angel. "Why, O son of Abraham, have you turned the occasion to bless into a time of hurting?

Your third request won't be granted, not because the Lord lacks integrity, but because he is full of mercy. However, know this, O foolish one..you've brought sadness..not only to yourself, but to the very heart of God."
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"A Nice Place to Visit" (Season One), Episode 28 Original Air Date: April 15, 1960

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Rod Serling's Opening Narration:
"Portrait of a man at work, the only work he's ever done, the only work he knows. His name is Henry Francis Valentine but he calls himself Rocky, because that's the way life has been, rocky and perilous and uphill at a dead run all the way. He's tired now, tired of running or wanting, of waiting for the breaks that come to others but never to him, never to Rocky Valentine, a scared, angry little man. He thinks it's all over now but he's wrong. For Rocky Valentine, it's just the beginning."

Summary:
Henry Francis "Rocky" Valentine is a second-rate, petty thief. When he gets busted attempting to clean out a pawn and loan store, he takes to running instead of giving himself up to the pursuing police. An ensuing shootout in the alley beside the store leaves Rocky dead on the pavement. Moments later, Rocky is awakened by a portly, white-bearded man dressed in a white suit who introduces himself as Mr. Pip, Rocky's guide. Rocky doesn't yet realize he hasn't survived his encounter with the police, who just happen to no longer be around. Suspicious by nature, Rocky doesn't trust the inviting and accommodating Pip and pulls a gun on the other man. Pip, however, remains calm and tries to explain to Rocky that he can have anything he wants, anything at all. Everything, Pip says, is Rocky’s for the taking. With his pistol trained on the other man's back, Rocky follows Pip to a high class hotel suite. Despite what Pip tells him, Rocky doesn't believe that all this now belongs to him. Rocky, trying to rationalize his situation, believes that Pip wants him to pull a job in exchange for all the nice things presented to him. Pip insists otherwise, tells Rocky that there is no catch to the situation. Tired and beleaguered, Rocky decides to postpone his protests for now and to clean himself up.


Rocky finds a wardrobe full of exceptional, expensive suits. He cleans up and puts on a new suit, which just happens to fit him perfectly, then sees a spread of food that Pip has put out of him. Rocky becomes suspicious of a possible poisoning and attempts to shoot Pip, firing several times at near point blank range without doing any damage to the other man. It is only now that Rocky realizes that something truly strange is going on. With a little help from Pip, Rocky finally realizes that he didn't survive the shootout with the police in the alley. Suddenly, Rocky becomes very excited, believing that he has died and gone to Heaven. Pip, he reasons, must be his own personal guardian angel, there to give him anything he wants. Without waiting for any information from Pip, Rocky begins to take full advantage of his situation.

He requests Pip bring him loads of cash and gaggles of beautiful women. Rocky spends nearly all of his time at the casino playing his favorite games and miraculously winning every single time he places a bet. The only problem that Rocky encounters is when he asks Pip to see some of his, Rocky’s, old friends. Pip informs Rocky that this place is Rocky's own private domain and that everything in it, except for Rocky and Pip, are like props in a movie. At this point, Rocky takes a minute to talk to Pip. Something, Rocky says, has been bothering him. He can't figure out how he made it to Heaven as he can't remember doing very many good deeds in his lifetime, or doing any good deeds at all. Pip informs him that there is a file on him in the Hall of Records. Rocky wants to see his file and Pip leads the way.

At the Hall of Records, Pip retrieves Rocky's file. Reading it aloud, Rocky soon realizes that it is actually a list of every bad thing he's ever done since childhood. He becomes confused and angry and asks Pip if maybe somebody made a mistake and he's not supposed to be here. Pip tells him that it's very unlikely that a mistake has been made. Satisfied, Rocky goes back to enjoying all the pleasures at his whim. Those pleasures, however, soon turn to torment.

After a month of winning every game he plays and of hours of mindless interaction with the beautiful, yet robotic, women, he is ready to burst at the seams with boredom. He can’t even play a game of pool for his first shot clears the entire table. Rocky calls on Pip and tries to explain his situation, about how it's no fun to win every time you take a chance, and that there’s no excitement because there is no actual danger involved in anything. When Pip attempts to appease Rocky by offering to fix a game or two so that he will lose every now and then or to arrange for Rocky to rob a bank or a jewelry store, Rocky nearly screams in frustration. It won't work if he knows it's a fix. Then an idea occurs to Rocky. Maybe a mistake has been made and he doesn't really belong in Heaven. Maybe he belongs in the other place. To which Pip replies with sinister seriousness: "Whatever gave you the idea this is Heaven? This is the other place!"

Rod Serling's Closing Narration:
"A scared, angry little man who never got a break. Now he has everything he's ever wanted, and he's going to have to live with it for eternity, in The Twilight Zone."

SOURCE: http://twilightzonevortex.blogspot.com/2012/04/nice-place-to-visit.html
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"Kisa Gotami and the Mustard Seed" by Alex Teo

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During Buddha’s time, there lived a woman named Kisa Gotami. She married young and gave birth to a son. One day, the baby fell sick and died soon after. Kisa Gotami loved her son greatly and refused to believe that her son was dead. She carried the body of her son around her village, asking if there was anyone who can bring her son back to life.

The villagers all saw that the son was already dead and there was nothing that could be done. They advised her to accept his death and make arrangements for the funeral.

In great grief, she fell upon her knees and clutched her son’s body close to her body. She kept uttering for her son to wake up.
A village elder took pity on her and suggested to her to consult the Buddha.

“Kisa Gotami. We cannot help you. But you should go to the Buddha. Maybe he can bring your son back to life!”
Kisa Gotami was extremely excited upon hearing the elder’s words. She immediately went to the Buddha’s residence and pleaded for him to bring her son back to life.

“Kisa Gotami, I have a way to bring your son back to life.”
“My Lord, I will do anything to bring my son back”
“If that is the case, then I need you to find me something. Bring me a mustard seed but it must be taken from a house where no one residing in the house has ever lost a family member. Bring this seed back to me and your son will come back to life.”

Having great faith in the Buddha’s promise, Kisa Gotami went from house to house, trying to find the mustard seed.

At the first house, a young woman offered to give her some mustard seeds. But when Kisa Gotami asked if she had ever lost a family member to death, the young women said her grandmother died a few months ago.

Kisa Gotami thanked the young woman and explained why the mustard seeds did not fulfill the Buddha’s requirements.

She moved on to the 2nd house. A husband died a few years. The 3rd house lost an uncle and the 4th house lost an aunt. She kept moving from house to house but the answer was all the same – every house had lost a family member to death.

Kisa Gotami finally came to realise that there is no one in the world who had never lost a family member to death. She now understood that death is inevitable and a natural part of life.
Putting aside her grief, she buried her son in the forest. Shen then returned to the Buddha and became his follower.

SOURCE: https://buddhiststories.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/kisa-gotami-and-the-mustard-seed/
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"Teaching" by Kahlil Gibran

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—Yoda on Dagobah by Fab

Then said a teacher, "Speak to us of Teaching."
And he said:

No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of our knowledge.
The teacher who walks in the shadow of the temple, among his followers, gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.
If he is indeed wise he does not bid you enter the house of wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.
The astronomer may speak to you of his understanding of space, but he cannot give you his understanding.
The musician may sing to you of the rhythm which is in all space, but he cannot give you the ear which arrests the rhythm nor the voice that echoes it.
And he who is versed in the science of numbers can tell of the regions of weight and measure, but he cannot conduct you thither.
For the vision of one man lends not its wings to another man.
And even as each one of you stands alone in God's knowledge, so must each one of you be alone in his knowledge of God and in his understanding of the earth.


SOURCE:
“The Prophet” - Kahlil Gibran
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"The Story of the Other Wise Man" (excerpt) Henry Van Dyke

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Who seeks for heaven alone to save his soul
Will reach the mark, but miss the goal;
While he who walks in love may wander far,
Yet God will bring him where the blessed are.

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"House of Light" by Mary Oliver

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“Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing—
that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and falling. And I do.”

― Mary Oliver, House of Light
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Poet History # 6 - Hafiz

Hafiz came along a hundred years later (1320 to 1389). He lived most of his life in Shiraz. He is considered the most beloved poet of Persia, and one of the finest lyricists in the Persian language. He was a devout Sufi. He lived about the same time as Chaucer in England. Read More...
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"The Prayer of St. Francis" by Francis of Assisi

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The Prayer of St. Francis is one of the best known and best loved prayers in the world today. Attributed traditionally to St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226), pictured above, its actual origins are much more recent. Nonethless it beautifully reflects his devotion to God!

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.


Although he came from a wealthy family, St. Francis developed a burning desire as a young man to emulate Our Lord in his love of charity and voluntary poverty. He went so far at one point as to sell his horse, and cloth from his father’s store, to help pay for the rebuilding of a church!

After renouncing his wealth, St. Francis founded one of the most famous religious orders, the Franciscans. The Franciscans lived an austere life of poverty in service to others following Jesus’s example, and preached the Gospel message all over Italy and other parts of Europe.

St. Francis’s humility was such that he never became a priest. Coming from someone whose order attracted thousands of people within its first ten years, this is modesty indeed!

Fittingly, St. Francis is the patron of Catholic Action, as well as of animals, the environment, and his native Italy. We see his legacy in the wonderful chartiable work the Franciscans do all over the world today.

In addition to the Prayer of St. Francis (also known as the “Peace Prayer of St. Francis&rdquoWinking there are some other moving prayers that he wrote listed here that reflect his great love of Our Lord, the Blessed Mother, and nature as part of God’s magnificent creation.

SOURCE: https://www.ourcatholicprayers.com/the-prayer-of-st-francis.html
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