Home » Excerpts » The Lying ‘Snake’ Vs The Sitting ‘Toad’

The wise heed wisdom
from anyone who offers it.
The foolish ignore wisdom
from everyone who offers it.

Stonepeace | Books

There was once a Zen [Chan] Master who practiced meditation with extreme diligence. He usually slept in a sitting position rather than lying down, and hardly rested much at all. However, despite practicing meditation for many years, he still had not become enlightened to the Way.

One day, a novice of unknown provenance sought permission to join the Order [of monks]. This novice was habitually lazy, to the point where he would often remain in bed even after the bell announcing the early prayer session had been rung. Informed of this, the Master summoned him and scolded him in the following terms, ‘How is it that you have joined the Order but are still so lazy as to be always lying down? Don’t you remember what the rules of discipline say: ‘Remaining in bed and failing to arise after hearing the bell will bring the future retribution of rebirth as a snake?’

The novice replied, ‘You said, Master, that I often lie down and therefore will become a snake. How about you, who are attached to the sitting posture? You will be reborn a toad. What can you ever hope to awaken to?’ Immediately after this exchange, the novice disappeared. However, the Master had been awakened. As the story goes, the novice was in fact a Bodhisattva, who had assumed the appearance of a novice in order to enlighten the Master… [to not be attached to rigid posture when it comes to spiritual practice, while forgetting its essential attitude and method in everyday life].

Master Tam

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