Ships cannot remain where the water is too shallow

Joshu, an accomplished Zen Guru, visited a monk, who had retired to meditate, and asked, “What is, is what?”

The monk raised a fist. Joshu replied, “Ships cannot remain where the water is too shallow.” And he left.

Joshu went to visit another monk and asked the same question.

The monk answered the same way (as they had been taught).

Joshu said, “Well given, well taken, well killed, well saved.” And he bowed to the monk.

Elucidation of the story

Both monks gave the exact same answer. But Joshu, as any other Spiritual Master would easily do, saw that one monk was not enlightened, and the other was. This is the nature of true enlightened: that nobody in the world – not even the best actor in Hollywood – can fake it. It is an inner flowering that can only be recognized by one with a similar attainment.

Only when one truly understands beyond mere forms and gestures that one can attain the uniqueness that is the hallmark of perfect Awakening. Only when one transcends is and is-not, this and that, can one love without possession or obsession, eat when hungry, drink when thirsty, rest when tired and laugh when a joke is told.

5 thoughts on “Ships cannot remain where the water is too shallow

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