A small Zen studio was starting a blog, but the blog’s title remained elusive. Stymied, the followers contacted a great Zen master with the question of what would be the most “Zen” thing to call their blog.
The master wrote back:
Many years ago, a young student was following his master through a forest. The trees grew close together and eventually all light was blocked. ‘Master,’ the young student cried, ‘I cannot see you and fear I shall grow lost!’ ‘Stupid fool!’ the master yelled back, ‘Your pitiful cries are beacons for the wild animals! Lost you may be, but rather lost than devoured! Quiet your noise, or the bears and wolves will follow their sound and feast on your -’ But the master said no more. Later, the student stumbled across his half-eaten corpse. ’ This student attained enlightenment and became known as Zen master Sheng-yen.
The students weren’t sure what to make of this story, so they wrote back to the master.
The master replied with another letter:
The Zen master Kakua approached the Emperor with a beautiful bird in a gilded cage. The Emperor, always looking for new animals to add to his menagerie, asked the master if he had brought the bird as a gift. ‘I bring a gift,’ said the master, ‘but it is not the bird. It is the song contained within the bird. And, it is only available by listening to the trees. For the bird will not sing when caged.’ Just then, the bird began warbling an enchanting song. ‘What’s that then?’ asked the Emperor. The master grew nervous, ‘Oh, that’s his – that’s his second best song. The best song he only sings in the trees.’ Things grew tense as the bird’s song got more complex and gorgeous. ‘Kakua,’ said the Emperor, ‘why are you wasting my time? This bird sings beautifully caged or no. Guards! Go out into the countryside, find all the birds and put them in cages! Put all the most talented journeymen in cages as well. Cage everyone! The whole country needs to be put in cages! Later, cage yourselves!’ ‘Well, that backfired,’ thought Kakua.
“Dear Zen master,” wrote the students, “please stop telling us stories and just give us a good title for our blog. We were thinking ‘Zen Some, Lose Some’ or ‘Too Many Roosters in the Zen House.’ What do you think?”
The students never heard back from the master and, a few weeks later, their Zen license was revoked. Which is totally a thing that can happen.