Zen Stories

greyboi's picture

Here is a Zen Buddhist story. One thing I like about these stories is that they leave it up to you to decide what the moral is.

Well, let's start with this one. I'll post others later:

One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice. As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine. Suddenly, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious!

(One reader claimed that Thomas Cleary once told him that the original ending of this story was quite different. According to Cleary, D.T. Suzuki changed the ending because he thought the original would not appeal to Westerners. The story was then picked up by others, such as Paul Reps. In the original version, the strawberry turns out to be, in fact, deadly poison.)

There are many ways to view these stories. Tell me what you think.

Corvus's picture

Very interesting

It's nice to see a fun, intelligent activity such as interpretation. Thank you for bring it up. My take is that we're all going to die someday. Enjoy life and it's situations as if you're going to die tomorrow. My friend just pointed out that it could also be "look for the best in a bad situation." He also pointed out that if the original story did exist it's moral could be "Whenever things look hopeless, they'll only get worse."

greyboi's picture

Here's one...

This story is about being self-absorbed and narrow-minded.

If the man was really wise he would have thrown the berry to the mice and attempted an escape. [Had the berry been poisonous, the mice would have died and he could also have fed them to the viscious tiger, killing it as well.]

We could say that story tells us that we should seek to think outside of the box and that taking the easy way out could prove itself to be detrimental.


Also, what do the elements of the story represent? I think the mouse might represent the present. What do the other parts mean?

adbak's picture

Yes, and perhaps ingoring ins

Yes, and perhaps ingoring instant gratification (the delicious strawberry, or seemingly delicious strawberry) and instead focusing on delayed gratification (being able to live rather than die of the tiger, mice eating the vine, or poisonous strawberry). Just my two cents.

Luke's picture


I'm in a zenny mood. I think that it's actually about objectivity, on one level. The fact that he's about to die does not change the beauty of the strawberry, or its wonderful taste. It is still wonderful, and brings happiness in spite of the world around him.
I also think that its about the moment, which is a huge zen concept. The future is as meaningless as the past, and in the moment, the strawberry was delicious, regardless of its effect. Sometimes things are just worth it.
The Head of Security for the Movement to Free Oompa Loompa Land from the Tyrannical Capitalistic Despot Willy Wonka