Koans are interesting little stories with hidden lessons designed by Zen masters. And what makes them fascinating is that they make us think. The best part is that the rational and obvious answer is not always the right one. Koans are used to train seekers to develop their intuitive abilities by by going beyond logic and reasoning.

Right and Wrong

“When Bankei held his seclusion-weeks of meditation, pupils from many parts of Japan came to attend. During one of these gatherings a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to Bankei with the request that the culprit be expelled. Bankei ignored the case

DSC00700Later the pupil was caught in a similar act, and again Bankei disregarded the matter. this angered the other pupils, who drew up a petition asking for the dismissal of the thief, stating that otherwise they would leave in a body.

When Bankei had read the petition he called everyone before him. “You are wise brothers,” he told them. “You know what is right and what is not right. You may go somewhere else to study if you wish, but this poor brother does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here even if all the rest of you leave”.

A torrent of tears cleansed the face of the brother who had stolen. All desire to steal had vanished”.

This Koan tells us that we should never reject or accept responses by people hastily. It would be wise to reflect on it with an open mind. What do you think?

Cheers 🙂


About dilipnaidu

An open mind! Love to share my thoughts and a keenness to learn. An engineer and a MBA I had a wonderful innings in the Army and later moved to consultancy and teaching. My current interests are music and growing culinary herbs. Love to play golf and do yoga regularly. I am serious on "Living life less seriously". A warm welcome to you be well and be cheerful always.

29 responses »

  1. Very interesting example of a koan….people are very quick to judge but must try to look beneath the obvious actions…wrong or right.



  2. This is beautiful story and thank you for sharing. There is right and wrong with in us to choose which one is by learning!


  3. feelingjoy says:

    Hi Dilip. I see we leave in a world with duality and this helps us to know if we are living from our true self or false self. The pupil who chose to steal and the students who chose to judge were choosing to live from their false selves. We are all here to learn and grow and in order for us to do so we must have each other on our journeys. Thank you for sharing this story. Pam


    • dilipnaidu says:

      That’s a lovely response Pam. Yes in order to evolve spiritually we need to live through the duality of the real world.

      Finally we reach the stage where we understand the ultimate truth – which declares the universe to be a manifestation of one undifferentiated reality therefore non-dualistic.

      With kind regards and best wishes.


  4. the seeker says:

    Reblogged this on Lectio Divina, or daily seeings.


  5. shreejacob says:

    Hello Dilip ! Just dropping by your blog and read this awesome post! I was introduced to Koan’s by a friend of mine. He told me that they were questions that students meditated on..for example : What is the sound of one hand clapping. I didn’t realize that it also refers to these short stories that makes people think…out of the box!


    • dilipnaidu says:

      Hi Shree how nice of you to reciprocate and visit my blog. That’s a lovely input your friend gives – yes trying to understand a koan with an open mind is just like meditating.

      Many thanks & cheers 🙂


  6. K Sriram says:

    Dear Sir,

    Here is Lao Tzu’s wisdom retold by Osho which captures the essence of the Koan.

    “Lao Tzu became very famous, a wise man, and he was without doubt one of the wisest men ever. The emperor of China asked him very humbly to become his chief of the supreme court, because nobody could guide the country’s laws better than he could. He tried to persuade the emperor, “I am not the right man,” but the emperor was insistent.
    Lao Tzu said, “If you don’t listen to me… just one day in the court and you will be convinced that I am not the right man, because the system is wrong. Out of humbleness I was not saying the truth to you. Either I can exist or your law and order and your society can exist. So… let us try it.”
    The first day a thief who had stolen almost half the treasures of the richest man in the capital was brought into the court. Lao Tzu listened to the case and then he said that the thief and the richest man should both go to jail for six months.
    The rich man said, “What are you saying? I have been stolen from, I have been robbed—what kind of justice is this, that you are sending me to jail for the same amount of time as the thief?”
    Lao Tzu said, “I am certainly being unfair to the thief. Your need to be in jail is greater, because you have collected so much money to yourself, deprived so many people of money… thousands of people are downtrodden and you are collecting and collecting money. For what? Your very greed is creating these thieves. You are responsible.
    The first crime is yours.”

    and a further version of the story goes that Lao Tzu then asks the Emperor to seek forgiveness for allowing such greedy people to ‘flourish’ under his rule & to create an environment conducive for ‘crime’ to take place in the first place!!

    If we reflect deeply at such nuggets of wisdom, we get to the truth of our superficiality of cause effect ‘judgments’ and what is the ‘purpose’ of ‘punishment’? Especially in the light of studies by various behavioral economists on ‘factors’ that ‘affect’ judgment ‘quality’ – including things like whether the judgement was delivered before lunch or after lunch (judges were severe pre-lunch but were liberal post lunch) or whether the court room temperature was higher or lower than normal – (sounds unbelievable, but this is all true – there is enough evidence to prove that our judges are but mere ‘irrational’ mortals affected by personal biases and physical factors in the immediate environment) whose judgments are as ‘irrational’ as any human.

    Hence the case for a ‘non-judgmental’ society that Lao Tzu wanted to create by preaching that “Judgment hurts you and the one you are judging. When you judge, you are not in your happiness. Judgment comes from thinking too much and being attached to your preferences. Quiet yourself. Breathe. Practice detachment.”

    So what is the moral of the story for us? Giving the Other the benefit of doubt; giving people (including ourselves) the opportunity of second chances; being a little more ‘benevolent’ or as the buzz word these days is – ‘compassionate’ – and thinking that if the circumstances of the other’s life had been mine, would I have been the who I am now?




    • Sriram, Thoroughly enjoyed reading your narration, which was so appropriate to the context. Sunder


    • dilipnaidu says:

      Good one Sriram the great Lao Tzu’s wisdom as narrated is superb. And the importance of being ‘non-judgmental’ comes out loud and clear.

      Your take on the moral of the story is perfect but to be compassionate we may need to cleanse ourselves of greed and wants.

      Thanks my friend.

      BTW My blog problem is finally sorted out. 5 trips to the BSNL exchange and infinite number of calls 🙂


  7. Binky says:

    We often do react instinctively to things, rather than to rationally think things over. A little thinking is usually a good thing.


  8. Manish Thakur says:

    wonderful post sir. have you (.. you must have!) tried devdutt.com? just curious! 🙂


  9. What a fascinating modus operandi employed by Bankei to manifest a sense of realisation. I bet Bankei’s EQ must be Sky High!!


  10. Right or wrong. These are activities by us, human beings. Any action which results in happiness to ‘others’ or brings peace of mind, is desirable. Who are these ‘others’? The entire group of students or the single student who was stealing? What if he was stealing to avoid starvation?
    We need to therefor go beyond than what strikes the eye first.


  11. That is a beautiful Koan. So true and it applies to anything really, reflecting before acting with an open mind. Thank you, Dilip.


  12. It is always wise to reflect… We each of us serve a purpose so that we can learn from each other.. Without wrong how would we know right?

    have a blessed day.


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