Full Awareness



After ten years of apprenticeship, Tenno achieved the rank of Zen teacher. One rainy day, he went to visit the famous master Nan-in. When he walked in, the master greeted him with a question, "Did you leave your wooden clogs and umbrella on the porch?"

"Yes," Tenno replied.

"Tell me," the master continued, "did you place your umbrella to the left of your shoes, or to the right?"

Tenno did not know the answer, and realized that he had not yet attained full awareness. So he became Nan-in's apprentice and studied under him for ten more years.


People's reactions to this story:
"Just goes to show you how little we pay attention to the things we do."

"This story makes me realize how much of my time is wasted by paying little attention to what I am doing at each moment. I'm either focused on the past or future and am not aware of what I'm doing."

"Do we remember EVERY detail of our day?! Is it possible to be aware at all times?"

"Full awareness includes even the most insignificant things?... Very odd."

"It's funny how people do things without realizing that they're doing them. I'm a cashier at a convenience store, and when I ask people what kind of sandwich they bought, they forget and have to look down to read the wrapper."

"Full awareness or great retention? Awareness should flow and not get caught up in what flows through it. Memory isn't attention. Doesn't it involve getting caught up in the flow?"

"How many experiences do we let slip by us in life? It's scary to think about."

"Sometimes we may think we know or are aware of everything, but someone else comes along to show us that we still have much to learn."

"No matter how much you know, there is always someone who can teach you more."

"Whenever you are absolutely sure you are doing something right, it turns out that you are going about it entirely the wrong way."

"This story is not inspiring! He's not aware of where he put his umbrella, so he lacks full awareness?! Maybe he was just focused on other things at the time!"

"I felt very frustrated and sorry for Tenno. He feels he has been wasting his time, so he has to study for another 10 years."

"I think it sucks that the poor dude has to study for another 10 years. Of course, these are dedicated people, so it's probably good for them."

"It's my opinion that an adult can never obtain full awareness, unless He or She is reared from parents with this developed state of mind. Maybe I'll give it a try after I get back from the shopping mall. Ha!"

"He really must have felt he was wrong in his forgetfulness if he was willing to lower himself and study for another ten years!"

"I think this story is a spoof of Zen practice. People take it too seriously."


|| Self-Control || Tea or Iron || Surprising the Master ||



John Suler, Ph.D. 1997 All rights reserved.