Stories

How Much Does a Snowflake Weigh?

It was deep winter and the snow was falling steadily upon the hillside.

A tiny mouse crept out of its hole for a little break in its long winter sleep.

Drowsily, the little mouse looked around and twitched its whiskers, and would have gone back to sleep inside its hole, had not a tiny voice echoed from somewhere out there in the white winter world: "Hello, little mouse. Can't you sleep?"

The mouse looked around and caught sight of a tiny bird sitting, shivering, on a bare branch just overhead. "Hello, Jenny Wren," said the mouse, pleased to find some company on this bleak day. "I just came up for a bit of air before I go back to sleep for the rest of the winter."

But it was so good to find company that for a while, the mouse and the wren sat there together, huddled beneath the lowest branches of a pine tree, watching the snow falling and enjoying a little congenial conversation. "How much do you think a snowflake weighs?" the mouse asked the wren suddenly.

"A snowflake weighs almost nothing," the wren replied. "A snowflake is so insignificant, it carries almost no weight at all. How could you possibly weigh a snowflake?"
"Oh, I disagree," said the mouse. "In fact, I can tell you that last winter, around this time, I woke up from my winter dreaming and came out here for a breath of fresh air, and because I had no companions and nothing better to do, I sat here counting the snowflakes as they fell. I watched them settling on these branches, and covering the pine needles with a blanket of whiteness. I got as far as two million, four hundred and ninety-two thousand, three hundred and fifty-nine. And thenwhen the very next snowflake fell and settled on the branch, and the branch dropped right down to the ground and all the snow slid off it. So you see, just that one last snowflake weighed enough to make the branch sink down and all the snow slide off. So a snowflake does weigh something. It does make a difference!"

The wren, who was only a tiny, little bird herself and didn't think she had much influence on the great, big world around her, pondered for a long time over the mouse's story. "Perhaps," she thought to herself, "it really is true that just one little voice can make a difference."

Tradition: None

· stories · folktales · fairytales · legends · myth · myths · mythology · snowflake · mouse · Nature · children · wren · winter · influence

Once there was a young warrior

Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear.

She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly.

But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle.

The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other.

The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons.

The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, "May I have permission to go into battle with you?"

Fear said, "Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission."

Then the young warrior said, "How can I defeat you?"

Fear replied, "My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power."

In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. 

by Pema Chödrön

Link: GoodReads

Tradition: Buddhism

· stories · folktales · fairytales · legends · myth · myths · mythology · Buddhist · warrior · teacher · mentor

Stone Cutters

During the Middle Ages, a traveler once came upon a place in France where a great deal of building work was going on. He began talking with the stone cutters and asking them about their work.
He approached the first worker and asked, "What are you doing?"

The man, very disgruntled, and obviously unhappy in his hard toil, replied, "I'm cutting these huge boulders with the simplest of tools and putting them together in the way I've been told to do. I'm sweating in this heat and my back is hurting. What's more, I'm totally bored, and I wish I didn't have to do this hard and meaningless job."

The traveler moved on quickly to interview a second worker. He asked the same question: "What are you doing?"

The worker replied, "Well, I have a wife and children at home, so I come here every morning and I work these boulders into regular shapes, as I'm told to do. It gets repetitive sometimes, but it helps to feed my family, and that's all I want."

Somewhat encouraged, the traveller went on to a third worker. "And what are you doing?" he asked.

The third worker responded, with shining eyes, as he pointed up to the heavens, "I'm building a cathedral!"

Tradition: None

· stories · folktales · fairytales · legends · myth · myths · mythology · Christian · attitude · mindfulness

The Arrival

On a visit to the East Coast, Suzuki Roshi arrived at the meeting place of the Cambridge Buddhist Society to find everyone scrubbing down the interior in anticipation of his visit. They were surprised to see him, because he had written that he would arrive on the following day. He tied back the sleeves of his robe and insisted on joining the preparations "for the grand day of my arrival."

"To Shine One Corner of the World: Moments with Shunryu Suzuki: Stories of a Zen Teacher Told by His Students" 

Link: A View on Buddhism

Tradition: Buddhism

· stories · Buddhist · teacher · humility

The hummingbird saves the world

One day an elephant saw a hummingbird lying flat on its back on the ground. The bird's tiny feet were raised up into the air.
"What on earth are you doing, Hummingbird?" asked the elephant.
The hummingbird replied, "I have heard that the sky might fall today. If that should happen, I am ready to do my part in holding it up."
The elephant laughed loudly and mocked the little bird. "Do you think those itty-bitty feet could hold up the sky?"
"Not alone," admitted the hummingbird. "But each of us must do what he can and this is what I can do myself."

Tradition: None

· stories · folktales · fairytales · legends · myth · myths · mythology · attitude · influence

The magic vase

There was once a poor family who lived in a drab little house in the neglected part of the city. They tried to be a happy family, but times were hard, and jobs were not easy to come by. As time went on, they began to feel more and more depressed. You could see their depression etching itself even on the house they lived in. They no longer bothered to clean the windows. They didn't tend the little patch of garden in front of the house. The paint peeled off the door and cracks appeared in the brickwork. The threshold of their home showed the sadness in their lives.

One day, the eldest son of the family was roaming idly through the town and he came upon a market place. The stallholders had set up their wares, and there was a bustle of activity. In spite of his feelings of near-despair, the boy found himself being caught up in the excitement of the morning market.

He stopped to watch the people buying fruit and vegetables, freshly baked bread and tempting cakes. He noticed the queue at the fish stall, and took a deep breath of pleasure as he passed the stall of fresh summer flowers.

But the stall that attracted him most was a little second-hand stall, tucked away among the awnings of the regular marketers. He had never noticed this stall before. He stopped to investigate. And there, hidden away in the dark recesses, he noticed a beautiful vase.
Rapidly, he fingered the coins in his pocket. He had just enough to meet the modest cost of the vase, but there would be nothing left over. Ah well, he though to himself. Why not? Even if we have a few lean days, I am going to buy this vase. Mum will love it. Everyone will love it. He handed over the contents of his pocket to the woman behind the counter.

As she wrapped the vase in brown paper, the stallholder said to the boy, Enjoy it, won't you? And treat it well, because it is a magic vase. With these mysterious words ringing in his ears, the lad went off home, proudly carrying his purchase. To the boys surprise, no one reproached him for spending all his money on it. Quite the opposite, in fact. Everyone at home was delighted with the vase.
When Dad saw the vase, he realized how shabby the room was, and he went to the cellar, got out the paintbrushes, and gave the room a makeover. And when the second son saw how nice the room looked, with its fresh coat of paint, he fetched a bucket of water and washed the windows and the door, for the first time in years. When the third son looked out of the bright new windows, he realized what a state the garden was in, and went outside to dig it over. When the fourth son saw the newly dug garden, he planted seeds in the flowerbed and watered them lovingly, all through the spring. When summer came and the baby daughter of the family went out to play in the garden, she noticed the flowers that had grown from the seeds, and she gathered a bunch of them to give to her mother.

Here are some pretty flowers, Mummy, she said, because we love you. Mum was overjoyed. With tears rising in her eyes, and a lump in her throat, she put the flowers in the magic vase.

Tradition: None

· stories · children · death · life · happiness

The Ring

Once, a poor man came to Rabbi Shmelke's door. There was no cash in the house, but the Rebbe knew the man was desperate for food.

So Rabbi Shmelke looked through his wife's drawer, and found a beautiful ring and promptly gave it to the beggar.

When his wife came home, she screamed, "How dare you give away that ring, it was worth fifty dollars! Now go and run after the beggar!"

Which Reb Shmelke promptly did, whispering in the beggar's ear. "I have just learned that the ring I gave you is worth fifty dollars. Make sure you don't get any less for it." 

Link: The Berdichev Revival

Tradition: Judaism

· Jewish · stories · Rabbi · teacher · generosity

The Shofar

Some 250 years ago in the town of Mezhibuzh, the Baal Shem Tov - the founder of Chassidut - sat secluded in intense study with one of his chassidim, Reb Wolff Kitzis.

The Baal Shem Tov had chosen Reb Wolff for the honor of blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. With just a day to go before the awesome day was to begin, the Baal Shem Tov was now teaching his disciple all the secret hidden meanings that he should meditate upon while sounding the various blasts.

But despite his sincere efforts to master the many mystical meanings, Reb Wolff was no kabbalist. It was impossible for him to remember by heart what to meditate upon with which blast, and so he decided to write everything down on a little piece of paper. That way, when the time came, he would be able to use his notes to jog his memory.

The Baal Shem Tov, however, was displeased when he saw what Reb Wolff was doing - for divine secrets such as these were not meant to be recorded for all eyes to see. But he did not say a word to his chassid.

The study session came to an end, and Reb Wolff stuffed the slip of paper into his coat pocket. The Baal Shem Tov watched as his disciple made his way down the path. When Reb Wolff had gone about half way, he stopped to take a handkerchief out of his pocket and - unbeknownst to him - the little slip of paper came flying out, too.

Reb Wolff continued on his way, while the slip of paper was carried by a gust of wind to a nearby stream. Now that the Baal Shem Tov was sure that the writing was being washed away by the waters of the stream, he was able to regain his usual composure.

The awesome moment of blowing the shofar in the synagogue finally arrived, and Reb Wolff made his way to the bimah (podium) with trembling knees. He was well aware of the great responsibility that had been placed upon him, and thankful that he had had the foresight to write down all the divine mysteries. When he reached inside his pocket for the little slip of paper, however, he began to tremble even more - for, of course, the paper was not there.

But slip of paper or no slip of paper, Reb Wolff still had a job to do. With a broken heart he began the solemn task of sounding the shofar. But with each blast of the shofar a new burst of tears began to flow down his face, because he was so saddened that he could not remember even a single divine mystery that he had been taught.

After the shofar service was over, Reb Wolff humbly returned to his seat. He was too ashamed to look the Baal Shem Tov in the eye, for his heart ached that he had let down his rebbe and the entire congregation.

The Baal Shem Tov came up to Reb Wolff after all the morning prayers were over, and to Reb Wolff's amazement, the face of the Baal Shem Tov glowed with happiness.

"You should know," the Baal Shem Tov said to his chassid, "that in a king's palace there are many locked rooms and each room has its own key. But there is one implement that can open all the doors of the palace and that is an ax.

"So, too, in the World Above there are numerous gates to the King's palace," the Baal Shem Tov continued. "The kabbalistic mysteries I taught you, the kavanos, are the keys to these gates. But just as an ax can break through every door in this world below, there is one thing that can open all the gates of all the heavenly palaces above. Do you know what that one thing is, Reb Wolff?"

Reb Wolff was still so overcome by emotion that he could only shake his head "no" in reply.

"It is a broken and humble heart," said the Baal Shem Tov. "With your tears, you opened all the gates of Heaven and brought down upon us a myriad of blessings for the coming year." 

by Libi Astaire

Link: Cousins Connection

Tradition: Judaism

· Jewish · stories · Rabbi · teacher · humility

The Taoist Farmer

There was once a Taoist farmer. One day the Taoist farmer’s only horse broke out of the corral and ran away. The farmer’s neighbors, all hearing of the horse running away, came to the Taoist farmer’s house to view the corral. As they stood there, the neighbors all said, "Oh what bad luck!" The Taoist farmer replied, "Maybe."

About a week later, the horse returned bringing with it a whole herd of wild horses, which the Taoist farmer and his son quickly corralled. The neighbors, hearing of the corralling of the horses, came to see for themselves. As they stood there looking at the corral filled with horses, the neighbors said, "Oh what good luck!" The Taoist farmer replied, "Maybe."

At that same time in China, there was a war going on between two rival warlords. The warlord of the Taoist farmer’s village was involved in this war. In need of more soldiers, he sent one of his captains to the village to conscript young men to fight in the war. When the captain came to take the Taoist farmer’s son he found a young man with a broken leg who was delirious with fever. Knowing there was no way the son could fight, the captain left him there. A few days later, the son’s fever broke. The neighbors, hearing of the son’s not being taken to fight in the war and of his return to good health, all came to see him. As they stood there, each one said, "Oh what good luck!" The Taoist farmer replied, "Maybe."

by Kent Moreno

Link: Pediatric Services

Tradition: Taoism

· stories · folktales · fairytales · legends · myth · myths · mythology · Taoist · Taoism

Three Questions

It once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid, and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.

And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do.

And learned men came to the King, but they all answered his questions differently.

In reply to the first question, some said that to know the right time for every action, one must draw up in advance, a table of days, months and years, and must live strictly according to it. Only thus, said they, could everything be done at its proper time. Others declared that it was impossible to decide beforehand the right time for every action; but that, not letting oneself be absorbed in idle pastimes, one should always attend to all that was going on, and then do what was most needful. Others, again, said that however attentive the King might be to what was going on, it was impossible for one man to decide correctly the right time for every action, but that he should have a Council of wise men, who would help him to fix the proper time for everything.

But then again others said there were some things which could not wait to be laid before a Council, but about which one had at once to decide whether to undertake them or not. But in order to decide that one must know beforehand what was going to happen. It is only magicians who know that; and, therefore in order to know the right time for every action, one must consult magicians.

Equally various were the answers to the second question. Some said, the people the King most needed were his councillors; others, the priests; others, the doctors; while some said the warriors were the most necessary.

To the third question, as to what was the most important occupation: some replied that the most important thing in the world was science. Others said it was skill in warfare; and others, again, that it was religious worship.

All the answers being different, the King agreed with none of them, and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom.

The hermit lived in a wood which he never quitted and he received none but common folk. So the King put on simple clothes, and before reaching the hermit's cell dismounted from his horse, and, leaving his bodyguard behind, went on alone.

When the King approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. Seeing the King, he greeted him and went on digging. The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into the ground and turned a little earth, he breathed heavily.

The King went up to him and said: 'I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest? And, what affairs are the most important and need my first attention?' The hermit listened to the King, but answered nothing. He just spat on his hand and recommenced digging.

'You are tired,' said the King, 'let me take the spade and work awhile for you.'

'Thanks!' said the hermit, and, giving the spade to the King, he sat down on the ground.

When he had dug two beds, the King stopped and repeated his questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out his hand for the spade, and said:

'Now rest awhile -- and let me work a bit.'

But the King did not give him the spade, and continued to dig. One hour passed, and another. The sun began to sink behind the trees, and the King at last stuck the spade into the ground, and said:

'I came to you, wise man, for an answer to my questions. If you can give me none, tell me so, and I will return home.'

'Here comes some one running,' said the hermit, 'let us see who it is.'

The King turned round, and saw a bearded man come running out of the wood. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, and blood was flowing from under them. When he reached the King, he fell fainting on the ground moaning feebly. The King and the hermit unfastened the man's clothing. There was a large wound in his stomach. The King washed it as best he could, and bandaged it with his handkerchief and with a towel the hermit had. But the blood would not stop flowing, and the King again and again removed the bandage soaked with warm blood, and washed and rebandaged the wound. When at last the blood ceased flowing, the man revived and asked for something to drink. The King brought fresh water and gave it to him. Meanwhile the sun had set, and it had become cool. So the King, with the hermit's help, carried the wounded man into the hut and laid him on the bed. Lying on the bed the man closed his eyes and was quiet; but the King was so tired with his walk and with the work he had done, that he crouched down on the threshold, and also fell asleep -- so soundly that he slept all through the short summer night. When he awoke in the morning, it was long before he could remember where he was, or who was the strange bearded man lying on the bed and gazing intently at him with shining eyes.

'Forgive me!' said the bearded man in a weak voice, when he saw that the King was awake and was looking at him.

'I do not know you, and have nothing to forgive you for,' said the King.

'You do not know me, but I know you. I am that enemy of yours who swore to revenge himself on you, because you executed his brother and seized his property. I knew you had gone alone to see the hermit, and I resolved to kill you on your way back. But the day passed and you did not return. So I came out from my ambush to find you, and I came upon your bodyguard, and they recognized me, and wounded me. I escaped from them, but should have bled to death had you not dressed my wound. I wished to kill you, and you have saved my life. Now, if I live, and if you wish it, I will serve you as your most faithful slave, and will bid my sons do the same. Forgive me!'

The King was very glad to have made peace with his enemy so easily, and to have gained him for a friend, and he not only forgave him, but said he would send his servants and his own physician to attend him, and promised to restore his property.

Having taken leave of the wounded man, the King went out into the porch and looked around for the hermit. Before going away he wished once more to beg an answer to the questions he had put. The hermit was outside, on his knees, sowing seeds in the beds that had been dug the day before.

The King approached him, and said:

'For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man.'

'You have already been answered!' said the hermit still crouching on his thin legs, and looking up at the King, who stood before him.

'How answered? What do you mean?' asked the King.

'Do you not see,' replied the hermit. 'If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug these beds for me, but had gone your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important man; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards, when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business. Remember then: there is only one time that is important -- Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!'
 

by Leo Tolstoy

Link: The Story of the Taoist Farmer

Tradition: None

· stories · folktales · fairytales · legends · myth · myths · mythology · Russian · awareness · mindfulness

Where is God

"Where is God?" asked the disciple.
"Everywhere, in everyone and everything," said his Guru.
Later, as the disciple was going home, he saw an elephant charging towards him.
"Get out of the way, get out of the way," shouted the elephant-driver. "He has gone mad!"
But the disciple thought: "God is everywhere. He is in the elephant and he is in me. Would God attack God? No, therefore the elephant will not attack me."
He stood where he was. The elephant picked him up in his trunk and flung him aside. Fortunately, he landed in a haystack and was not too badly hurt. But he was terribly shaken and confused.
When the Guru and the other disciples came to help him and take him home, he said, "You said God is in everything, but see what the elephant did to me!"
"It is true that God is in everything," said his Guru. "He is in the elephant, but he is also in the mahout who kept telling you to get out of the way. Why didn't you listen to him?"

by Anon - Bengali folktale

Link: Saromama

Tradition: Hinduism

· stories · folktales · fairytales · legends · myth · myths · mythology · Bengali · awareness · teacher · mentor · immanence