Good Hand, Bad Hand

A Zen master was walking down a rural lane, contemplating life’s mysteries, when he passed a campfire, around which several men were playing a game of cards. 

One of the men saw the master and, recognizing his robes, called him over.

“You’re one of them Zen guys, ain’t you?” the gentleman asked, “Well, we got ourselves a deep question. Think you can help us out?”

The master nodded.

“Now, I got me a hand of cards that looks like it might be a winner. My friend on the other side of the fire there has a hand that he thinks might be a winner. Now, Mr. Master, when our hands are played only one of us can be declared the winner. But, if we remain friends after this, won’t we both really be winners?”

The master pondered the man’s question.

“It would seem,” said the master, “that you have already discovered the secret to happiness.”

The man was surprised at this turn of events, but thought that sounded pretty cool. So, he and his friends started playing cards again.

“And,” said the master, “If you – if you stay friends forever then no matter who has the most money  – no matter who has the most money, you’ll both be the richest of all.”

The master waited for some acknowledgment of what he’d said, but the men were pretty intent on playing their card game.

“The richest of all,” the master mumbled. He started walking away but turned back when he thought one of the guys had said something to him. But, they were just talking to each other.

Later, the master shared this story with a student, except he changed it so that he was the one who came up with the part about them both being winners and made it so the card player was the one who tried the “richest of all” thing. 

“But, I was already walking away,” the master concluded.

The student was unimpressed, but he nodded a lot so as not to betray how unimpressed he was. He maybe nodded a little too much, though. No one nods that much.

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