Zen Story: The Clever Monkey

The Prince of Wu took a boat to Monkey Mountain. As soon as the monkeys saw him they all fled in panic and hid in the treetops. One monkey, however, remained, completely unconcerned, swinging from branch to branch—an extraordinary display! The Prince shot an arrow at the monkey, but the monkey dexterously caught the arrow in mid-flight. At this the Prince ordered his attendants to make a concerted attack. In an instant the monkey was shot full of arrows and fell dead. Then the King turned to his companion Yen Pu’i: “You see what happened?” he said. “This animal advertised his cleverness. He trusted in his own skill. He thought no one could touch him. Remember that! Do not rely on distinction and talent when you deal with men!” When they returned home, Yen Pu’i became the disciple of a sage to get rid of everything that made him outstanding. He renounced every pleasure. He learned to hide every “distinction.” Soon no one in the Kingdom knew what to make of him. Thus they held him in awe.

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