Studying The Case Of Zen Parables English Literature Essay

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A young gentleman approached a Zen master for training. When meeting the Zen master though, he greeted the master with the way of the nobility, and the young man proceeded to give the master a list of demands for his training. Unruffled, the master asked the young man, "Let us first consider the case of a young butterfly. Can he begin to learn to fly without leaving behind all traces of the cocoon?"

There was once a young girl who wanted to become the best in everything-- she often hounded her mother about ways in which she could improve her cooking, sewing, or mending. One day, her mother set her to hemming all the cloths in the house-- even those seldom used. Frustrated, she asked her mother what good she was doing, making things that would not be used. Her mother asked her in return, "Should a mother alter the quality of her love based on the modesty of her daughter?"

A braggart strode into a teahouse, exclaiming to the world that he had mastered the secrets of the arts; he was indeed better than all the imperial nobility. An old Zen master stood from his place in enjoying tea and asked, "Does not the secret of the arts extend the secret of the serene pond or the secret of a stern mountain?"


A Collection of Yue-Fu

by Betty Chen



The Bitter Cold

There is only pain. Mother crouches

At the base of me, determined looks on

Her face. Grandmother stands

Above me, imposing and looming, though

A flitter of satisfaction blooms. Mother pulls

Tighter and more, and the slick crack

Resounds in the cold room. The pain is

Nothing like what I've experienced

In six years of age. The windowsills

Sprinkle with frost, and the pathway through

Its view is thin and bitter. The branches are

Bare, devoid of leaves. They are lonely

Like me. In my room- my room- where once

I had been like my brothers, when I could

Scurry down to the well or to my

Best friend, now there is only

Red strips of cloth and pain.

Blinding pain.


There is still only pain. I think I might

Grow accustomed to the dull pain, my

Constant companion of throbbing that

Follows me like a shadow- dark and

Always. But then Mother will pull

The red cloth a little tighter, stretching

Taut once more. My windowsill now

Plunks with the solidity of rain. New grass

Spurts out of the ground, slowly

Infecting once more. The trees are adorned

With flowering branches, a cacophony of

Verdant and pastels. And yet, I am here

Alone, when the flowers have found mates

Among the vivid butterflies. I must

Hobble across the room during the day, but

Running of my childhood is no longer allowed

To me, and quite impossible. And so there is

Still only pain.


There is joy- interspersed with pain. The

Matchmaker came by today, and told my

Father that my foot were the envy of the

Village, that its perfect lotus shape would

Bring my family much honor. He is happy

Though his face is still brushed wood

Smooth. I would hear more about the

Match that will have, but my presence is

Not required, and I retire back to my rooms,

Giddy with joy- but infused with pain. Bright

Streaks of radiant light fall across

My floor, brought in through the windowsill.

I want nothing more than to dance in its rays,

Careless with joy as I had once done, but I shall

Settle for the image in my head. My feet still

Have pain, striking in bursts that float

Above the constant ache that has become

As much a part of me as my ebony hair. I

Rejoice for the match I will make- and there is still



There is pain, though mine and then not. I am crouched

At the feet of my daughter, my husband's Mother behind

Me, observing my every move. Harsh cries fill

The room, full of pleas and cries that conquer

Every corner and expand. There is no escape

From them, and yet, they fall on deaf ears.

I pay them no heed as I take red cloths- like

Mine and yet not, and pull them across my

Daughter's feet, bending the toes under her

For that lotus shape. For I will not shame my

Family, nor will I shame her. She will one day

Experience the same joy I did when I learned

Of my match, and she will become a proper

Lady- this I do for her future. In this world where

My choices are never my own, this I can do for

Her. The windowsill has an errant leaf

That has come in from when the wind

Filled its cheeks- it is a brilliant red- the color

Of the cloths, the color of luck, the color of pain.

The leaves have all fallen onto the ground, paddies

Filled with the ready rice- eager. As am I to finish this,

To ensure my daughter's star will go higher

Than my own. There is pain today, and it is

Mine and then not- but there is still, always,