Koan Study

“It is a beautiful day today, isn’t it Master” called out a student. Master Li said, “Nothing is exactly as it seems, nor is it otherwise.”
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One afternoon, Master Chou was visiting Master Li. “Where is your wooden staff, the one I carved for you?” asked Master Chou. Master Li said, “It broke when I hit a student over the head with it.” Master Chou then said, “And where is that candleholder I brought you from Tibet?” Master Li responded, “It broke when I threw it at a lazy student.” Master Chou shook his head and said, “There seems to be a problem here with your anger”. Master Li said, “No, the problem is you keep giving me things that break.”
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After dinner Master Li gave a new student the temple schedule. The student noticed lights out at 9 p.m. “Oh, this won’t do sir, I enjoy staying up late and reading.” Master Li replied, “It gets late early here.”




“Master, why do you not speak of the goodness of Zen?” Master Li replied, “The instant you speak about how wonderful Zen is, you have polluted the well.”
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One time a student who was constantly complaining walked up to Master Li and said, “You are the absolute worst teacher I have ever had.” Master Li looked at him and said, “No, that could not be. It would be too great a coincidence.”

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Master Chou walked into Master Li’s temple one day. “What is the purpose of this visit?” asked Master Li. “I have come here to say nothing of value” replied Master Chou. “Ah, but you already have” said Master Li.
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Master Li and a temple priest were sitting quietly having a cup of tea in Master Li’s hut when there was knock on the door. Master Li continued to sip his tea. “Are you not going to answer that Master?’ asked the priest. “How does one answer a bolt of lightning?” replied Master Li.
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Master Chou told Master Li, “A cat may live in a monastery, but it still remains a cat.” Master Li yelled, “Meow!”
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“Master, Confucius has said, "A wise man question himself, a fool others. Is this true?” Master Li answered, “Have you not already answered your own question?”
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“Master, how do we help those who are suffering?“ inquired a student. Master Li replied, “When you are a soldier in the war are on suffering, sometimes you go to the front lines, and sometimes the front lines come to you.”
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Master Li told the students a story on how years earlier the water supply ran out at the temple. Master Li was digging a new well when a missionary walked by. “I offer you prayers” said the missionary. Master Li wiped the sweat from his forehead and said “Thank you so much for your prayers. They have already deepened the hole. Would your back like to pray?”
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A student once asked Master Li how to avoid grasping at the Tao. “Cut off your hands fool!” yelled Master Li.
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“Master, when you go up to the top of the mountain to sit, what do you think about?” asked a disciple. “I think about how much I would like to be at the bottom.” replied Master Li.
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A student once inquired, “Master, what is the most difficult question you have ever been asked?” Master Li thought for a moment and said, “Once, I was a stranger in a town and someone asked me who I was.”
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Master Li was asked by a student, “What is enlightenment?” Master Li responded, “Knowing what is not.”
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“Master, is it more important to be liked or respected?” inquired a student. “It is more important to clean the toilet.” responded Master Li.
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A student inquired, “Master, if I am eating, what should I do?” Master Li replied, “Eat”. The student continued, “And if I am walking?” Master Li answered “Walk”. The student persisted, “And if I am drowning?” Master Li answered, “Drown!”


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A disciple inquired, “Where does time go, Master?” Master Li answered, “Can the fallen fruit return to the tree from whence it came?”
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“Master, why do not all people follow the way of Tao?” asked a student. Master Li said, “Mother Tao has two large breasts to suckle, yet so many prefer man made formula from a plastic bottle.”
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Master Li was working in his garden one afternoon when Master Chou walked up. “What are you planting Li” asked Master Chou. “Wisdom” replied Master Li. “And will it be a prosperous harvest?” laughed Master Chou. “If I knew that, I would not have to plant it” said Master Li.

A student once asked, “What is the ultimate reality?” Master Li kicked the student in the shins and said “Pain.”
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“Why is the Way so difficult” asked a student. Master Li responded, “Quite the contrary, the Way is easy, the followers are difficult.”
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Master Li was once asked what his legacy would be after he died. “He was born, he lived, he got old, he got sick, he died, they threw his possessions in the river. The end.”
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A student asked Master Li the best way to enlightenment. Master Li said “Do you see that mountain over there? Pick it up, sweep underneath it and then put it down.”
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“Master, is enlightenment gradual or sudden?” asked a student. Master Li told him, “What is the price of rice in Nanchong?”
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A student had come to Master Li and said he was having difficulty with his meditation although he tried very hard. Master Li told him, “The problem is your eyebrows are on fire.”
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Master Li was visiting with Master Chou one day. “There are four ways in which to enter the gateway of Tao” declared Master Li. “What are those ways?” asked Master Chou. “I do not know” replied Master Li. “Then” said Master Chou, “How do you know there are four ways?” Master Li responded, “How do you know there are not?”
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Master Li was invited by a neighboring temple to come in and teach a class on meditation and give a talk. When he went inside the zendo, he saw all the students wearing ‘zen’ clothes, sat on expensive zafus, conducted themselves overly politely, and performed rituals like clockwork. Master Li looked around and asked the temple abbot Master Chou, “Where are the real students?”
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A priest informed Master Li that several students had snuck into town the previous night. “How should they be punished Master?“ asked the priest. Master Li said, “Is that so? Sometimes it is better to follow the spirit of the rule rather than the rule itself.”
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“Master, what is oneness?” asked a student. Master Li answered, “The smoke from the incense disappears into the air.”
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A traveler stopped at the temple and walked over to Master Li. “Excuse me, I understand this is the temple where the teachings of the Tao are taught. Is that so?” Master Li shook his head and said, “No, it is taught wherever your mind is. Do you know where it is?”
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During a question and answer session, a visitor asked if it was possible to master all the teachings that the Tao has to offer in one lifetime. Master Li replied, “No, our minds are like plastic bags in the landfill. It will take a thousand years to break down into the nothingness required.”
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A journalist once asked Master Li how many Tao students there were in the world. Master Li told him, “First, we will have to figure out how many are actual Tao students and how many delude themselves into thinking they are.”
 
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“What is fear Master?” asked a student. Master Li answered, “Fear is when after dark, all cats become tigers.”
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“Master, what is the most essential teaching?” asked a student. Master Li replied, “That which I cannot teach you and you can only learn yourself.”
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A student asked, “Master, is there no way to hold on to Tao?” Master Li said, “Can you hold on to the smoke from this stick of incense?”
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A student inquired, “Master, is the greatest struggle between yin and yang?” Master Li answered, “No, the greatest struggle is yes and no within the mind.”
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“What is the difference between a good Tao student and a bad one?” asked a new student. Master Li said, “The bad ones makes distinctions about other students.”
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Master Li asked a student who had been sick how he was feeling. The student replied, “Much better Master. I was so sick, but I am myself again.” Master Li responded, “Oh, who were you when you were sick?”
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A student once told Master Li that he did not feel his practice was going well enough. Master Li asked the student to hold out his hands and the student complied. “They are not dirty enough!” said Master Li.
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A student once asked Master Li if he could practice better in a cave up in the mountains. Master Li responded by saying, “I don’t think so. No matter where you go, there you are.”
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A student once asked Master Li, “Master is the saying true that the zen you have at the bottom of the mountain is the same as the zen you find at the top of the mountain?”  Master Li said, “All the pithy saying about Zen belong in the toilet.”
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“Master, what is the key to understanding the Way?” asked a student. Master Li told him “Look in your cup of tea.”
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Master Li saw a student who read constantly reading yet another book of Zen. “Let me find a large, heavy stone for you to carry around on your back!” called out Master Li.
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“Master, I was in such a beautiful meditative state last night. How do I repeat such an experience?” Master Li responded, “You cannot enter the river in the same place twice no matter how often you go there.”
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A student once asked Master Li, “How do I overcome fear?” Master Li answered, “Be the raindrop that falls from the sky, unfettered and unafraid of its destination.”
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A student inquired, “Master, how do I achieve oneness?” Master Li answered, “There is nothing to achieve.”
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A student was being chastised by Master Li for leaving a grain of rice in his alms bowl.. The student said, “I am sorry Master, but was my wrong not insignificant? It was only one grain of rice” Master Li responded, “We are taught to eat everything in our alms bowl as a sign of gratitude. One snowflake is insignificant, yet it can trigger an avalanche.”
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A student once asked Master Li, “What is life?” Master Li told him, “What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a horse in the wintertime. It is the shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
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“Master, when we leave this temple, what will happen?” Master Li said, “The wolf is always out there waiting, and the wolf is always hungry.
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A student inquired of Master Li, “Master, every time we make a mistake, do we disrespect the Tao?” Master Li smiled and said, “The moon is not shamed by the barking of dogs.”
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“Master, do we become wiser with age?” asked a student. Master Li replied, “The evening is always wiser than the morning but some never live to see the stars.”
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“I do not understand Master, he was a good man, he led a good life, one free from violence and from harming others, yet he was struck down.” said a grieving student after the death of a fellow student.. Master Li told him, “Man does not weave the web of life. He is merely a strand in it.”

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Master Li spoke to his students one day: "There are those of you who speak against killing and who desire to spare the lives of all conscious beings. You are of course correct, however what about those persons who kill time? Are they not just as guilty and shameful?
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During a talk, Master Li said that everyone must fast for seven days. This proved to be very difficult for many. On the fifth day, one priest decided to ask Master Li if they could end the fast that day as many were suffering, mentally if not physically. When he walked into Master Li’s hut he found the Master enjoying a sumptuous meal. The shocked priest said “Master, why are you eating when you said that everyone should be doing a fast?” Master Li said, “Did I say fast? I meant feast. You should not have just listened to what I said, but instead found out what I was doing.”
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Master Li once told all students that there would be a feast on the coming Sunday. All week, the temple buzzed with anticipation. On Sunday, the students all entered the dining hall expecting a great meal. when they arrived however, there was no food to be found and no one in the kitchen. As they stood there bewildered, Master Li walked in. He turned to them and said, “There is always the unexpected.” With that, he walked out.
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Once after meditation, Master Li was scheduled to give a talk. He stood up and smiled at the students and then walked out of the building without saying a word. A few days later, a student walked up to Master Li and said, “Master, that was so powerful last week. We were all touched by that silent message you gave us.” Master Li frowned and said, “Actually, I just had laryngitis and could not speak. I do not know what silent message you are talking about.”
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A student once asked Master Li was the greatest truth was. Master Li said, “If I told you, you would not believe me.” The student said, “Yes I would Master. I would believe you.” Master Li proceeded to say, “Alright then, here it is. I am an incompetent, totally ignorant of teaching and the Tao itself.”
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Master Li was once asked by a student, “What is the secret to meditation?” Master Li responded, “Don’t give a damn what happens.”
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A student once told Master Li that he had a great fear of death. “Master, why do you have such a casual attitude about death?” Master Li said, “When death sounds its trumpet for me, what am I going to do, refuse to listen?”
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Master Li once told a student, “Walk softly on the beach of Tao and try to leave no footprints.” The student answered, “How is this possible Master?” Master Li responded, “It is possible, for those with understanding.”
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Master Li was walking by the river when he came upon a student. “What are you doing” called out the Master. The student explained he was looking into the water to see his reflection but the water was choppy and he could not see himself. “Ah, same as mind” said Master Li.
 
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Master Li often carried a stick which he used to occasionally hit students on the shoulder during meditation. A student once asked Master Li if the reason for the strikes were to wake up a sleepy student or to help the student focus their attention better. Master Li responded, “No, no reason.”
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Master Li was very strict about following the temple rules. He often chided students for wearing tabi (socks) on cold mornings. Once during a public meditation session, a very pretty and bikini clad young lady came into the zendo right before meditation session was to begin and sat down on the floor to begin meditation. This caused a small disturbance among the students and other guests. A priest came up to Master Li and asked if the woman should be asked to leave. “Why would we do that?” asked Master Li. The priest explained that the woman was not properly dressed for meditation and might distract the other people in the zendo. "It breaks the rules of meditating here in the zendo" the priest emphasized. Master Li rubbed his chin and told the priest, “Let’s do this. You conduct the meditation session and I will sit here and watch her to see if she is distracting anyone.”
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Master Yu was visiting the temple and quiet proudly told Master Li “No students have ever broken a rule at my temple.” Master Li responded, “They must either be bad students or bad rules.”
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A rich man asked Master Li what the secret to happiness was so that he could purchase it. “Such a thing is not a secret, nor can it be bought.“ said Master Li “but I can tell you what happiness is; Father dies, son dies, grandson dies." The rich man became angry. "What kind of stupid answer is that?" he demanded. Master Li explained, "If your son died before you, would that not grieve you greatly? If your grandson should die before your son, both of you would be broken-hearted. If your family, generation after generation, passes away in the order I have named, it will be the natural course of life. Would there be a greater happiness you could have?"
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Once, a new student as a surprise, cleaned up Master Li’s hut. It was very dusty and he took great care in removing the dust from everything. When Master Li showed up, the student said, “I have a surprise for you Master! I have cleaned your hut. All the dust is gone.” Master Li sighed and said, “I was saving that dust.”
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Once a student was telling another student that he absorbed all he was taught immediately. “I have a mind like a sponge.” he bragged. Master Li upon hearing this walked over and said to the student, “Take your mind over to the kitchen and have it start cleaning.”
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Master Li asked some students, “Once there were five frogs sitting on a log. Three said they were going to jump in the water. How many frogs were left on the log?” Several students said two were left. “That is incorrect. There is a big difference between saying something and actually doing it.” said the Master.
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Master Li overheard one student say to another, “This Master Li sure is demanding. Do this, do that. He is going to work us to death!” Master Li then told them, “If you knew anything about Zen, you would have died already.”
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Master Li was once asked what the most important thing in Zen was. He told the student, “Whatever you are doing now.”
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A noted Zen Grand Master was visiting the temple. “Where are your books on Zen, Master Li?” he asked. Master Li said, “We threw them in the fire so we could be warm.” The Grand Master then asked, “Well then, where are your statues of Buddha”? Master Li responded, “We threw them in the fire so we could be warm.” The Grand Master became angry. “That is outrageous! Where are the list of rules I sent you to follow? Did you not receive them?” the Grand Master demanded. Master Li calmly said, “Yes we did get those, We used them to start the fire.”
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Master Li informed the students that he had written a poem about the Tao and had placed it in the zendo. He wanted all the students to read it. When they arrived to read it, there was only a blank piece of paper laying on the floor.
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Master Li had the reputation of being a stern teacher. Once, a new student came to the temple. Master Li did not speak to him for three months. Finally, the student gathered up the courage to ask Master Li, “When are you going to start teaching me?” Master Li glared at him and said “You idiot, haven’t you been paying attention the last three months?”
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A student who had been at the temple for some time had the reputation of being clumsy, often spilling tea, asking foolish questions, and fouling up simple tasks. Once, a temple priest asked Master Li why he was wasting his time with the student. “Do you not see his diligence above his ways? He practices Zen better than you and I put together priest” answered Master Li.
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Once, Master Li had trekked up through the mountains to visit another teacher. It had been near blizzard like conditions, wind and heavy snow during the trip. The conditions made it impossible to sleep and the trip was pure misery. As he trudged toward his cabin after finally arriving back at the temple, a new student came up to him and brusquely asked, “Master, what is death?” Master Li sighed and said “I must go to my cabin and change out of my heavy clothes. If you wait here a moment, I will show you personally what death is.” The student bowed and sprinted back to his hut.
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Once, Master Li was in the courtyard. A priest walked up and said, “What are you doing Master?” Master Li said, “I am having tea with my friends.” The priest looked around, “I don’t see anyone.” Master Li said, “You do not see the lake, feel the warmth of the sun or hear the trees rustling in the wind?”
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Master Li was informed of an old student who had just died. “No he did not die.” said Master Li. “But Master, I was at his bedside when he died.” said a student. “That which is not born can never die” replied Master Li. “The end is endless.”
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One day at a lunch provided by the townspeople, Master Li was handed a glass of sake. “I am sorry, I cannot drink this sake” said Master Li. “Ah, very noble of you to abstain from alcohol” replied the host. “I prefer scotch. Do you have any” asked Master Li.
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One time a storyteller who was very famous came to the temple and asked to tell Tao fables to the students and Master Li. After he was finished, he asked Master Li his opinion. “All you told were worthless stories. What are your direct experiences with Tao?” asked Master Li. The storyteller stood silently. Soon after, he gave up his profession and became a student of Master Li’s.
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Two students were sitting behind the zendo playing rock, paper, scissors when Master Li walked up. “Master, does rock beat scissors or does scissors beat rock?” they asked. Master Li said nothing as he picked up a large stick and raised it over his head as if to strike. “Master beats lazy students!” he roared. The two students scurried into the zendo and began meditating.
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A new student was handed a schedule for students of Master Li. “What do we do with our spare time?” asked the student. “Die every moment” replied the Master.
A student asked “How do I become a teacher?” Master Li replied “Know nothing.”
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Master Li overheard a student who was in charge of cutting the grass by the zendo complaining about the planted flowers. “It takes me so long to go around all those flower beds. I wish I could just mow right over them.” Master Li said, “That is a good idea, we do not need those flowers anyway.” Three days later when it was mowing time again, the student happily ran the mower over the beds cutting the flowers into ribbons. Later, he was sitting on the tractor sipping some tea when Master Li approached. “How was the mowing today?” Master Li inquired. “Very good master!” the student said smiling. “Your work was easier and much faster today?” asked the Master. “Yes, it was.” said the student. “Good, with the extra time you saved, you can go the storage shed and get some potting soil, tools, and flower seeds and begin work immediately planting the seeds for new flowers” Master Li told him. “But Master, you said we didn’t need those flowers anymore and it will take me hours and hours to plant new ones” said the shocked student. “No, we didn’t need those old flowers anymore, but we do need new ones.” said the Master.
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The student said what does enlightenment mean?” Master Li replied, “Nothing to the bird singing in the tree.”
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A student asked “I have heard that it is pointless to ask questions about Tao. Is this true?” Master Li said, “Why are you asking me?”
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An angry student said to Master Li, “I saw that student over there by the stone wall stealing rice from the storage room.” Master Li replied, “He seems to have also stolen something far more important.”
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A student came upon Master Li standing around a fire in the courtyard. He noticed the Master was throwing books about zen into the fire. “Master, why are you burning those books?” he asked. Master Li said, “It is but a whisper from relevant to irrelevant.”
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Master Li was taking a walk in the forest looking at the beautiful fall colors when he came upon a student reading the Tao Te Ching under a tree. “What are you doing?” asked the master. “I am studying the Tao” said the student. Master Li looked at a leaf he was holding in his hand, “So am I” he said.
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Once, A monk asked the master: “How are you when death arrives?” The master replied: “When served tea, I take tea. When served a meal, I take a meal.”
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A student asked “If there is yin in yang, and yang in yin, what makes them different?” Master Li responded “Mind.” “What is mind” asked the student. “Yin and yang.” replied the master.
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A new student told Master Li, “I have so many questions to ask you”. Master Li responded “And I have so few answers to give you.”
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A student once said to Master Li, “There is too much salt in this soup.” Master Li took the student’s bowl and threw it on the ground spilling the soup and replied “There! Problem solved!”
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Master Li and several students were sitting around a fire on a cool evening. Master Li picked up some ashes and said to the students, “Someday this will be you.”
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Master Li overheard a priest telling a group of new students over lunch that everything is merely an illusion. Master Li reached over and took a bowl of food from the priest. The priest looked up and said “Why are you taking my food Master?” Master Li smiled, “What food, it is merely an illusion that you will not miss and I will most enjoy.”
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A traveling priest spoke to Master Li boasting of his ability to perform miracles. “I can make myself disappear or even manifest as a bird at a moment’s notice. What miracle can you perform Li?” Master Li said, “I can eat when hungry, and go to sleep when I am tired.”
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A visiting priest was telling Master Li about how he knew his son would become a great priest just like him. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” the priest said. “Perhaps, but if the tree is on a hill it can roll downhill a long way” responded Master Li.
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Master Li was asked a question by a student about enlightenment. Master Li said “Go wash your bowl”. The student asked “What does that have to do with enlightenment?” Master Li replied; “Nothing and everything. Now go do something useful .”
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Once, a visiting dignitary came to the temple. He presented Master Li with a fine silk robe. Master Li took the robe and went back to his hut without saying a word. The dignitary thought to himself, “That stupid priest! He didn’t even say thank you!” Later after dinner, the dignitary took a walk into town and saw an old woman wearing the robe he gave Master Li. The man went back to the temple and walked up to Master Li and said “Where is the robe I gave you?” Master Li replied: “I treasured it so much, I gave it away.”
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Remembering an old Zen story, a student said “Master, if we see Buddha on the road, should we kill him?” Master Li said; “I am afraid it is a little too late for that. already. You should have gotten him before he got on the road.”
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A brand new student had just arrived at the temple and saw an old man sitting in the courtyard.. “Is this the temple for learning about the Tao?” he asked, “I am looking for Master Li.” The unrecognized Master Li said, “There is no temple, there is no Tao, there is no Master Li. Go home!”
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A student once asked master Li, “Where is Buddha?” Master Li farted loudly and said “Ah, there he is now!”
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A student once asked Master Li, “Where is the path to oneness with Tao?” Master Li said, “No one has walked it. The student persisted; “How can we walk a path that does not exist?” Master Li said; “With sandals that do not exist.”
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Once a master asked a student “How is your practice?” The student replied that he burned incense regularly, meditated, chanted, read various texts, treated everyone he met with great compassion, and bowed 500 times per day.

The master said “You fool, you’re wasting your time!” The student said “What should I be doing  then master?” The master replied; “You must burn incense, meditate, chant, read the texts, treat everyone you meet with great compassion, and bow 500 times per day! Why have you not been doing that? Wake up!”
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A student asked Master Li; “Master, is meditation valuable? “Yes, it is” said Master Li. “How valuable” asked the student. “It is so valuable it is worthless” replied Master Li.
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A student rushed up to Master Li and said; “Master! Some soldiers came into Po Shon temple. They put guns to Master Cho’s head and he didn’t even blink!” Master Li responded, “If soldiers have guns to your head, there is not much you can do, can you?”
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A student finished cleaning the courtyard and told Master Li. Master Li kicked him in the shins. “Why did you do that Master?” asked the hobbling student. Master Li responded, “There is always the unexpected.”
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“Master, they say all things return to one, but where does one return to?” asked a student. The master replied “The clouds are gray today.”
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Master Li told some new students, “I expect you to be perfect students on the first day and then show constant improvement!” A student later told Master Li that he did not think he could live up to that standard. Master Li said, “That is all right, it does not make any difference.”
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A traveling priest once said to Master Li, “I have come over one hundred miles to visit you.” Master Li said “Who cares?” The priest continued, “I wish to learn much about your temple here.” Master Li said, “Who cares?” The priest said, “What is this who cares nonsense? Are you Master Li?” Master Li responded, “Who cares?”
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A novice student told Master Li, “The new students are not cleaning the kitchen the right way Master.” Master Li said, “I thought the rice has been especially delicious lately!”
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The son of a influential landowner had decided to leave the temple after finding it unsatisfactory. A fellow priest told Master Li, “You should not let him leave, it will reflect badly on you among the rulers.” Master Li responded, “The only reflection that matters is the moon on the pond.”
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A visiting dignitary was speaking to Master Li, “I am so troubled” the man said. Master Li said, “I am sorry you are ill.” The man said, “I am fine.” Master Li continued, “Then I am sorry to hear of your wife’s passing.” The visitor said, “My wife did not die.” Master Li responded, “Oh, I am most sorry. My fondest hope is your children recover from their sicknesses.” The dignitary said, “My children aren’t sick.” Master Li then said, “I am sorry you have lost your job and cannot provide for your family.” The dignitary started to become annoyed and said, “What are you talking about? I still have my job!” “Oh, my mistake” said Master Li, “I thought you said you had troubles.”
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A student asked Master Li, “Should I think non-thinking during meditation?” Master Li laughed, “What does that even mean?” he said.
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A priest asked Master Li, “I saw a new cook in the kitchen. Is he permanent?” Master Li replied “No one here is permanent.”
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A student once told Master Li, “I have reached a subtle awareness of the truth.” Master Li shrugged his shoulders and said, “Big deal.”
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A student once asked Master Li, “Master, how do I get rid of all my problems?” Master Li said, “I shall tell you when I figure out how to stop the sun from rising.”
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“What is mind Master?” a student once asked. “What is not mind?” said Master Li.
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Master Li was speaking with some students when he excused himself, “I must seek true learning now” he said. “Where are you going?” asked one student. “To clean the toilet” said Master Li.
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On a cold winter day, a new student asked Master Li if the zendo was heated. “Yes it is” said Master Li. “Good to hear there is a furnace” said the student. “Yes, we call it mind” replied Master Li.
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Master Li once told some students, “How can you comprehend the infinite when you have a finite mind?”
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A new student once said, “It is good to go into the village Master. It gives me a good feeling to know we are appreciated. So many people are smiling when they see us from the temple.” Master Li replied, “Yes, I noticed they smile at you. I also noticed you do not tie your alms robe properly and every time you reach for their offering you expose your personals to them.” The student was shocked, “What? Why did you not tell me of this before Master?” Master Li laughed, “Who am I to deprive the villagers of a smile?”

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“What is death?” said one student. “Go change your clothes” replied Master Li.
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Master Li was taking a nap once when he was awakened and told that a student at the temple had died. “Very admirable, very admirable.” replied Master Li. With that, he went back to sleep.
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“Is kindness important Master?” said a student. “Sometimes yes and sometimes it can be the greatest form of destruction.” said Master Li.
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“Master, when do we become complete?” asked a student. Master Li replied, “Complete what? Idiots?”
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One time a student asked Master Li what the words the students chanted in Chinese meant. Master Li responded, “I don’t know, I don’t speak Chinese. If you chant with your heart, it doesn’t make any difference anyway.”
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Master Li overheard a student talking about a situation say, “It is what it is.” Master Li added, “Sometimes it is what it is, and sometimes it isn’t what it is.”
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During a question and answer period, a student stood up and asked, “Is sex bad?” Master Li without missing a beat responded, “It depends on what kind.” to a chorus of laughter.
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“Master Li, why is it when you give us koans, you do not give us the answers?” a student inquired. Master Li said, “What makes you think there are answers?”
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“Master, what is our aim?” a student asked. Master Li replied “To sit like a river, and walk like a mountain.”
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Master Li was working out in the garden in the middle of a hot sultry day. A student asked him why he was working outside at that time. “Where else would I be?” said Master Li.
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“Master, must there be quiet to meditate properly?” Master Li said, “Is a waterfall quiet? Yet, is it not at peace as it falls?”
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One time Master Li was presented with a picture of Buddha. He promptly tore it into pieces. “Why are you being so disrespectful?” an onlooker asked. “Disrespectful? I just did him a great honor” replied Master Li.
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Master Li asked a young student to bring him a bucket of water to cool his bath. The student brought the water and, after cooling the bath, threw on to the ground the tiny amount of water that was left over. "You dunce!" the master scolded him. "Why didn't you give the rest of the water to the plants? What right have you to waste even one drop of water?"
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One morning, a student saw Master Li preparing a knapsack. "Where are you going?" asked the student?” Master Li said, "I am going wherever my feet go." The student thought for a moment and then said, “Which way are your feet going?” Master Li replied “Whichever way the wind is blowing.”