Every morning, the zen student would go to the Zen Master and ask, “What shall I do today?’ The Zen Master always answered with the same reply.

“Take these two buckets, go to the stream and fetch some water.” This had gone on for quite some time. The student would walk down the trail, to the creek and fill the two buckets with water. He would leave the creek with two full buckets of water, but by the time he got to the monastery kitchen with the water over half the water had leaked out. Both buckets were old and leaked at the seams.

Upon returning to the kitchen the student asked, “Master, why don’t we get two new buckets? These two buckets leak…”

“Why should we get two new buckets?” The Zen Master interrupted the student. “We don’t need two new buckets.”

“…but the buckets are cracked. When I return from the creek with the water, there is only half the water I started with. Is that not being counter productive?’ The student argued.

The Zen Master motioned for the student to follow him. He walked outside and toward the trail that led to the creek. “What do you see?’ The Zen Master asked.

“A trail,” The student replied frustrated, confused and spent from carrying two buckets of water up the trail.

“Do you not see all the beautiful flowers on both sides of the trail. It has been very dry this year and every where you look it is brown, except, along the trail. The student looked again and saw the beautiful flowers on both sides of the lush green trail. “You have been multi-tasking and did not know that the buckets leaking gives the trail the water it needs to sustain such beautiful flowers and keep the grass a beautiful green.”

The Zen Master looked at the student who now had a smile on his once frustrated face. The student bowed to the Zen Master, acknowledging he understood.


(moral: sometimes we do good things and do not even know we are doing them. Perhaps old items work harder to do two things rather than one.)


(I got this from a very short story called, ‘The Cracked Water Jar.’ I just changed it around to give it a zen-tale appeal and to make it longer than one paragraph)           

  The Cracked Water Jar
 Once there was a water jar that had a long hairline crack in it. The Jar leaked  so  badly  that,  when  it  was  filled  to  the  brim  with  water and carried back to the house, by the time  it got there half the water had  leaked out. Nevertheless, the servant of the house used  it daily, along with another jar that didn’t leak one bit.  After several months of constant daily use,  the cracked water  jar was very depressed at  the fact that it had only been able to get half as much water to the house as the other  jar. When the servant heard the  jar moaning about this, he said, “You have nothing  to be ashamed of!  You did  the best  job that  you  could.  And,  look  –  I always  carried  you on  the  right  side walking  back  to  the  house,  and  the  other  jar  on  the  left.  See  the path???  On  the  right side,  there are beautiful  flowers all along  the path,  but  on  the  left,  nothing  is  growing  –  it  has  been  too  dry  this summer.”  So…when  we  grow  discouraged  about  not  being  “productive”, remember, the cracked water jar, which was doing a job it didn’t even know it was doing at all…that the whole water jar couldn’t have done.         

Have a zen-filled day!