David Bruce: 250 Anecdotes About Religion, Volume 2 — Education, Enlightenment

Education

• A ruler came to Rumi and asked for spiritual instruction. Rumi replied, “I have heard that you have committed the Quran to memory. Is this true?” The ruler replied that it was true. Rumi then asked, “I have also heard that you have studied under a great teacher the deeds of God’s great apostle, as reported in the Jami’u-l-Usul. Is this true?” Again, the ruler replied that it was true. Rumi then said, “You know the Word of God, and you know the deeds of God’s great apostle. However, you do not obey the Word of God, and you do not follow the example of God’s great apostle. How then can you expect to learn anything from me?”

• Mulla Nasrudin wore a turban that indicated that he was a scholar. An illiterate man saw Nasrudin’s turban and asked him to read a letter for him. Nasrudin looked at the letter, then told the man, “I cannot read it because the handwriting is so bad.” The man became angry and replied, “But you are wearing a scholar’s turban, so you should be able to read the writing.” Nasrudin removed his turban, then handed it to the man, saying, “You wear the turban and see if you can read the writing.”

• A young, arrogant Zen student named Yamaoka Tesshu visited Zen master Dokuon of Shokoku, hoping to impress him with his wisdom. Yamaoka Tesshu stood in front of Dokuon and began to lecture him, saying that nothing existed and all was emptiness. Dokuon listened for a while, then took his cane and hit Yamaoka Tesshu on top of his head. “Why did you hit me?” angrily screamed Yamaoka Tesshu. Dokuon calmly replied, “If nothing exists, then where did your anger come from?”

• Rabbi Joseph Katz of Polona met the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of Hassidism) in an unusual way. One day, Rabbi Katz waited in the synagogue for the worshippers to arrive. However, no one came. Startled, and worried, Rabbi Katz left to look for the worshippers. He found them in the marketplace, listening to the Baal Shem Tov teach. Rabbi Katz also listened, and he became a Hassid.

• Sometimes, students told meditation teacher Munindra that they wished to leave him in order to study other religious traditions or that they wished to leave him in order to study under another teacher. Munindra always let them go without argument. When asked why he did so, he replied, “The Dharma doesn’t suffer from comparison.”

• The great 19th-century actor Joseph Jefferson believed in the description of the loving God in the New Testament as opposed to the description of the vengeful God in the Old Testament. As he was teaching his children about God, one of his sons said, “You never taught us to be afraid of you, Father.”

• A man went to his rabbi and said, “Please help me, rabbi. I have worked hard to understand and to please God, yet I am still an ordinary and ignorant person.” The rabbi replied, “You have learned that you are ordinary and ignorant. That is no small accomplishment.”

Enlightenment

• King Ming-su was unhappy, although he was very powerful, very rich, and without mercy. He asked the Buddhist priest Si-tien to help him find happiness, so Si-tien put something in his hands, then a short time later, he took it away. As long as King Ming-su had it in his hands, he was happy, but when it was taken away from him, he became unhappy again. He asked, “What was I holding in my hands that made me happy?” Si-tien answered, “The present moment.”

• A man questioned the Buddha, asking, “Are you God?” The Buddha replied, “No.” The man then asked the Buddha if he was the son of God. Again, the Buddha answered, “No.” Next the man asked the Buddha if he was a saint or a holy man. Again, the Buddha answered, “No.” Finally, the man asked, “What are you, then?” The Buddha answered, “I’m awake.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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