Many teachings of Buddhism are taught and told in short and delightful parables. They are usually designed to develop the mind and to free it from distortions and so to connect with our spirit.
Many of them are really inspiring and enlightening. It is helpful to the mind to think about them and feel the deeper meaning. Even if it is not possible to grasp them fully, the beauty and simplicity of the message usually gets through to us one way or the other.
Some parables are a selection of the ones I found most inspiring and really worth to ponder about. Some may be instantly understood, some others need to be thought through and recognized in oneself. We must always keep in mind two crucial principles: the Buddha Mind and serious practice. Without practice, and without the determination to achieve Buddha hood for the benefit of all sentient beings (Bodhi Mind), parables merely feed the intellect and may become, in the words of D.T. Suzuki, "mere bubbles."
1. The Moving Flag
Two Buddhists monks were arguing about a flag flapping in the wind.
"It's the wind that is really moving," stated the first one.
"No, it is the flag that is moving," contended the second.
A third interrupted them. "Neither the flag nor the wind is moving," he said, "It is MIND that is moving."
2. Goddess of Wealth / Goddess of Poverty
Once a beautiful and well-dressed woman visited a house. The master of the house asked her who she was and she replied that she was the goddess of wealth. The master of the house was delighted and so greeted her with open arms. Soon after another woman appeared who was ugly looking and poorly dressed. The master asked who she was and the woman replied that she was the goddess of poverty. The master was frightened and tried to drive her out of the house, but the woman refused to depart, saying, 'The goddess of wealth is my sister. There is an agreement between us that we are never to live apart; if you chase me out, she is to go with me.' Sure enough, as soon as the ugly woman went out, the other woman disappeared.
Birth goes with death. Fortune goes with misfortune. Bad things follow good things. Men should realize this. Foolish people dread misfortune and strive after good fortune, but those who seek Enlightenment must transcend both of them. (from The Teaching of the Buddha)
3. A True Buddha
Three monks were drinking tea.
The Buddhist master asked the first monk, “What do you drink with your tea?”
The first monk replied, “I drink suffering, loneliness and make peace and happiness.”
The master nodded and exclaimed, “Oh, you are great, an enlightened one. You go now.”
The same question was asked to the second monk.
And the second monk replied, “I drink Buddha’s teaching, compassion and the Buddha himself with the tea.”
The master now fully satisfied with his explanation said, “You are a truly Buddha, an enlightened one. You too go.”
Then the master asked the third monk, “What do you drink with your tea?”
The third monk replied, “I picked out the fly from the tea cup and drink only tea.”
The master smiled and said, “You are the right person to sit in my place.”
And the master gave his sit to the third monk.
4. The Buddha
There were two monks.
Younger is sitting in zazen.
Elder inquires, “Why are you sitting in zazen?”
Younger replies, “By sitting in zazen, I hope eventually to become a Buddha.”
Elder picks up a brick and begins rubbing it on a rock.
Younger laughs, “And what are you doing?”
Elder replies, “I am polishing this brick in hopes that eventually it will become a mirror.”
(The advanced story ends here, but for the rest of us it continues.)
Younger asks, “How can polishing a brick make a mirror?”
Elder retorts, “How can sitting in zazen make a Buddha!”
(And, true to the ancient formula, the younger monk instantly became a mirror.)