Episode 205: Koan 2 – Poison or Honey

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A Koan 公案 is a story, dialogue, question or statement which is used in Zen practice. Today we will start a new series in our podcast of koans.

I am not a Buddhist, and by no means I understand the world or have more life experiences than anyone who is listening. But hopefully by sharing these koans we can all have some inspirations and understand ourselves better.

The koan today is from the the Buddhism script JiuZaPiYuJing 旧杂譬喻经from India. The Earliest Chinese translation from the original Sanskrit is from the Easter Han dynasty 东汉, between the year 25 ~ 220.

This is a story told by the Buddha to the King ShengGuang 胜光. It says, long long ago, there was a person walking in the wilderness and all of a sudden a ferocious elephant started chasing after him. The person was panicked and he saw a dead well where he could get down to by climbing along the roots of the tree next to it. So he held the tree roots and hid inside the well.

When he thought he could take a break, two mice a white and a black started to chew on the roots in the meanwhile there were four vipers appeared next to the well and an evil dragon at the very bottom of the well looking upwards. The person was scared too death by the vipers and the dragon and worried about the mice would keep chewing the roots and he could get out the well.




At this moment, five drops of honey from the beehive on the tree not to the left nor to the right, fell right into the person’s mouth. Maybe this is due the the mice chewing on the roots and the tree started to shake a little bit. Tasting the honey, he suddenly forget all the fear, all the worries and just enjoyed every bit of the flavor of the honey. Since the tree was shaking, the bees were startled and stung the person. And out of nowhere, a fire burned downed the tree.

The Buddha said, “the person represents every normal person. The elephant represents the unpredictable. The well represents the safe island. The roots of the tree represents our lives. The black and white mice represent the night and the day. The mice chewing on the roots represent our life clock is ticking every second. The four vipers represent the four elements in the nature, earth, water, fire and wind. The five drops of honey represent our five desires money, lust, fame, food and rest. The evil dragon represents the death and the fire represents aging and diseases. My king, we should always be alarmed and not be swallowed by our desires.”



旧杂譬喻经 JiuZaPiYuJing

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