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Zen stories - 2 - Secret of Sadhana

In Zen tradition, there is a Buddha named Hotei, who is also known as the ‘Laughing Buddha’. It is his idol that we see nowadays in the entrance of many homes and shops, as a sign of good luck. He carried on his shoulder a big sack full of toys and candy. He wandered through the village streets and distributed them to children.

One day a few people asked Hotei “Since you are a Zen master, can you please tell us what Zen means?”. Hotei did not reply to that, instead, he at once threw the sack on the floor with a thud. People were surprised at this. He then lifted the sack back onto his shoulder and walked away laughing loudly.

Zen tales appear to be very simple. But if we can understand, there is a deep meaning hidden in them. This Zen tale also has a profound meaning. Hotei was not an ordinary human being. He was a realized master. He indirectly hinted that everybody is carrying a huge sack called Ego, in the form of their thoughts, tendencies, anger, love, hatred etc,. If one can get rid of this Ego, that verily is liberation. And that is Zen.

Once we experience the annihilation of ego, life becomes a game, thereafter. As long as the body is present, the game continues with the same mind and ego, but with the awareness that this is all a game. This is the meaning of lifting the sack again and moving forward with a smile.

All rights reserved. This article has been translated by Suresh P, which was originally posted in on February 12, 2009. The content or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express permission of the publisher.


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