The Good Life Can Only Be Found in the Simple Life: a Short Zen Story

moon zen story

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. “You may have come a long way to visit me, ” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could give him this beautiful moon.” 

Existence has given us so much open-handedly, providing us with all that we need to live a beautiful life of joy and celebration. However, in the greedy society that we have created, we are in a constant effort to acquire material things, thinking that this way we will fill our inner emptiness. Of course, this does nothing to quench our inner thirst for fulfillment, because, as the wise say: the good life can only be found in the simple life.

Story credit: Zen Flesh Zen Bones, compiled by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki

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