My Favorite Zen Fable

A teaching story from Zen Fables for Today by Richard McLean – Retold by Amy Gonway

Jato, the instructor to the Emperor’s sons, observed that the oldest boy was given to outbursts of anger, which could prove dangerous in later life because this prince stood as heir to his aging father’s throne armies.

One day in the midst of the boy’s tantrum, Jato dragged the youth to a flowering bush and thrust the prince’s hand against a cluster of feeding bees until one bee stung the boy.

The prince was so surprised that anyone would treat him so roughly that he stopped his raging.  Cradling his stinging hand, he yelled at Jato, ‘I am going to tell my father’.

Jato replied, ‘When you tell your father, tell him also to look at this bee’.

Together they studied the bee writhing on a leaf with its entrails torn out with the stinger.  They watched the agonized insect until it died.

That is the price of anger’ said Jato.

That night the boy told his father, who gave Jato a gold piece.  The boy, when he became emperor, was known for his quiet judgment and his unwillingness to be provoked.

This latter trait proved invaluable during his long reign through turbulent times.


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