Ancient Music In the Pines, ch. 1
oshobob The Living Workshop
used to say, “When people ask me
what Zen is like I tell them this story:
Noticing that his father was growing old, the son
of a burglar asked his father to teach him the
trade so that he could carry on the family
business after his father had retired.
The father agreed, and that night they broke
into a house together.
Opening a large chest the father told his son to
go in and pick out the clothing. As soon as the
boy was inside, the father locked the chest and
then made a lot of noise so that the whole house
was aroused. Then he slipped quietly away.
Locked inside the chest the boy was angry,
terrified, and puzzled as to how he was going to
get out. Then an idea flashed to him – he made
a noise like a cat.
The family told a maid to take a candle and
examine the chest.
When the lid was unlocked the boy jumped out,
blew out the candle, pushed his way past the
astonished maid, and ran out. The people ran
Noticing a well by the side of the road the boy
threw in a large stone, then hid in the darkness.
The pursuers gathered around the well trying to
see the burglar drowning himself.
When the boy got home he was very angry at
his father and he tried to tell him the story.
But the father said, ‘Don’t bother to tell me the
details. You are here – you have learned the
It is one of the most beautiful among Zen
anecdotes. Zen people talk through stories.
They have to talk through stories because they
cannot create theories and doctrines, they can
only tell stories. They are great story-tellers.
Jesus goes on talking in parables, Buddha goes
on talking in parables, Sufi mystics go on talking
in parables – it is not coincidental. The story, the
parable, the anecdote, is the way of the right
hemisphere; logic, argument, proof, syllogism, is
the way of the left hemisphere...
Ancient Music in the Pines, ch. 1