Tipping Over a Water Vase

Hyakujo wished to send a monk to open a new monastery. He told his pupils that whoever answered a question most ably would be appointed. Placing a water vase on the ground, he asked, "Who can say what this is without calling its name?" The chief monk said, "No one can call it a tree stump." Isan, the cook monk, tipped over the vase with his foot and went out. Hyakujo smiled and said, "The chief monk loses." And Isan became the master of the new monastery.

The chief monk was still attached to the water vase and tried to say something about it, whereas Isan transcended the problem, or question. To try to answer the question intellectually is a totally wrong approach. Life's questions are answered by the totality of a person's character, not by the extent of one's learning.


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