Stories

Story: A Wizard’s Advice

Posted by on Nov 28, 2013 in Curriculum, Kids Program, Reading List, Stories | 0 comments

Story: A Wizard’s Advice

Excerpted from “The Once and Future King” by T.H.White One day, towards the end of his childhood, the future King Arthur was having a terrible day. Following the advice of his seniors, he went to see his teacher, Merlyn. Asking his advice on the matter Arthur spoke, “Well, what about it?” “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then – learn.” “Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you.” “Look at what a lot of things there are to learn – pure science, the only purity there is. You can learn astronomy in a lifetime, natural history in three, literature in six. And then, after you have exhausted a milliard lifetimes in biology and medicine and theocriticism and geography and history and economics – why you can start to make a cartwheel out of the appropriate wood, or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to defeat your adversary at fencing. After that you can start again on mathematics, until it is time to learn to plough.” “Do you think you have learned anything?” Merlyn inquired. “I have learned, and been happy.” King Arthur said. “That’s right then,” said Merlyn, “try to remember what you have...

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Story: The War Prayer, By Mark Twain

Posted by on Nov 26, 2013 in Curriculum, Ethics, Kids Program, Reading List, Stories | 1 comment

Story: The War Prayer, By Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory with stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way. Sunday morning came–next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams–visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation: God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword! Then came the “long” prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory– An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to...

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Story: Walking Zen

Posted by on Nov 26, 2013 in Curriculum, Kids Program, Stories | 1 comment

Story: Walking Zen

A long ago time ago in the hills of Quong Zu province, there once lived a revered old monk who was a master of Zen Buddhism. One day he decided that he would make a pilgrimage to a neighboring monastery, and not wishing to make the journey alone, he decided to take along one of his young disciples. They started their journey early the next morning and in the true spirit of Zen each walked along engrossed in his own thoughts, and so they journeyed for many hours without speaking. By midday they had come to a small stream, here they noticed a young girl dressed in fine silk obviously contemplating how best to cross the stream without getting her precious clothes wet. Immediately the old monk walked over to the young girl and in one smooth motion, he picked her up in his arms and walked out into the stream, then after carrying her safely to the other side, he gently put her down and walked on without having said a single word. His disciple having watched this whole incident was in a state of complete shock, for he knew it was strictly forbidden for a monk to come into physical contact with another person. Quickly, he too crossed the stream, and then ran to catch up with his master, together they once again walked on in silence. Finally at sunset they made camp and settled down for the night. The next morning after prayers and meditation the old monk and his disciple once again continued their journey in silence. After many miles and no longer able to contain his curiosity, the disciple called to his master and said, “Master may I ask you a question? ” “Of course you may” his master replied, “knowledge comes to those who seek it”. Respectfully his disciple said, “Yesterday I saw you break one of our most sacred vows when you picked up that young girl and carried her across the stream, how could you do such a thing?” His master replied, “That is true, and you are right it is something I should not have done, but you are as guilty as I am.” “How so” asked his disciple, “for it was you who carried her across the stream not I?” “I know” replied his master, “but at least on the other side I put her down. You, however, are obviously still carrying...

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Story: The Tea Cup Lesson

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Curriculum, Kids Program, Stories | 1 comment

Story: The Tea Cup Lesson

A learned man once went to a Zen teacher to inquire about Zen. As the Zen teacher explained, the learned man would frequently interrupt him with remarks like, “Oh, yes, we have that too….” and so on. Finally the Zen teacher stopped talking and began to serve tea to the learned man. He poured the cup full, and then kept pouring until the cup overflowed. “Enough!” the learned man once more interrupted. “No more can go into the cup!” “Indeed, I see,” answered the Zen teacher. “If you do not first empty the cup, how can you taste my cup of...

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Story: The Stone Cutter

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Curriculum, Kids Program, Stories | 1 comment

Story: The Stone Cutter

Once upon a time there was a stone cutter. The stone cutter lived in a land where a life of privilege meant being powerful. Looking at his life he decided that he was unsatisfied with the way things were and so he set out to become the most powerful thing in the land. Looking around his land he wondered to himself what is it to be powerful. Looking up he saw the Sun shining down on all the land. “The Sun must be the most powerful thing that there is, for it shines down on all things, and all things grow from it’s touch.” So he became the Sun. Days later, as he shone his power down on the inhabitants of the land, there came a cloud which passed beneath him obstructing his brilliance. Frustrated he realized that the Sun was not the most powerful thing in the land, if a simple cloud could interrupt his greatness. So he became a cloud, in fact, he became the most powerful storm that the world had ever seen. And so he blew his rain and lightning, and resounded with thunder all over the land, demonstrating that he was the most powerful. Until one day he came across a boulder. Down and down he poured and his thunder roared, lightning flashed and filled the sky, striking the ground near the boulder. His winds blew and blew and blew, and yet, despite all his efforts, he could not budge the boulder. Frustrated again, he realized that the storm was not the most powerful thing in the land, rather it must be the boulder. So he became the boulder. For days he sat, unmovable, and impassive, demonstrating his power, until one day, a stone cutter came and chiseled him to...

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Story: Shake it off and Step Up

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Curriculum, Kids Program, Stories | 1 comment

Story: Shake it off and Step Up

One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well. For hours, the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally he decided the animal was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey. He invited his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement, he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well and was astonished at what he saw. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the well and trotted...

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Story: Musashi’s Disciple

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Curriculum, Kids Program, Stories | 1 comment

Story: Musashi’s Disciple

I will tell you the story of the Samurai who came to see the legendary master Miyamoto Musashi and asked to learn the true way of the sword. The master agreed to accept him as a student. Having become his disciple, the Samurai spent all his time, as instructed by the master, carrying and chopping wood and fetching buckets of water from a distant spring. He did this every day for a month, two months, one year, three years. Today, any disciple would have run away after a week or even a few hours. But the Samurai went on, and in the process he formed his body. At the end of three years he had had enough, however, and asked his master, “What kind of training are you giving me? I have not touched a sword since I got here. I spend all my time chopping wood and carrying water. When are you going to initiate me?” “All right, all right,” the master replied. “Since you desire it, I shall now teach you the true technique.” He ordered him to go to the dojo and there, every day from morning to evening, the disciple had to walk around the outside edge of the tatami, step by step around the hall without ever missing a foot. So the disciple walked around the edge of the tatami for a year. At the end of that time he said to his master, “I am a Samurai, I have a long experience of swordsmanship and I have met other masters of Kendo. Not one ever taught me as you are doing. Now, please, teach me the true way of the sword.” “Very well,” said the master. “Follow me.” He led him far into the mountains to a place where a tree trunk lay across a ravine, a dizzying, deep chasm. “There,” said the master, “walk over.” The Samurai had no idea what his master meant; when he glanced down he recoiled and couldn’t bring himself to cross. All of a sudden they heard a tap-tap-tapping behind them, the sound of a blind man’s stick. The blind man, paying no attention, walked past them and tapped his way firmly over the abyss, his stick in front of him. “Aha,” thought the Samurai, “I’m beginning to understand. If the blind man can walk across like that, I ought to be able to do it too.” And his master said, “For one whole year you have walked round and round the edge of the tatami, which is much narrower than that tree trunk; so you must be able to cross.” He understood, and strode to the other side. His training was finished: for three years he had built up the strength of his body; for one year he had developed his power of concentration in one action (walking); and at the last, facing death at the edge of the abyss, he received the final training of spirit and...

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Story: The Mayonnaise Jar and 2 Cups of Coffee…

Posted by on Nov 23, 2013 in Curriculum, Kids Program, Stories | 1 comment

Story: The Mayonnaise Jar and 2 Cups of Coffee…

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar..and the 2 cups of coffee… A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous “yes.” The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed. “Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, ” I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things-your God, family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions — things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff. If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal.” Take care of the golf balls first — the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.” One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a...

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Story: Good Luck, Bad Luck

Posted by on Nov 23, 2013 in Curriculum, Kids Program, Stories | 1 comment

Story: Good Luck, Bad Luck

An old man and his son worked on a small farm, with only one horse to pull the plough. One day the horse ran away. “How terrible,” sympathized the neighbors “What bad luck.” “Maybe.” the farmer replied. A week later, the horse returned from the mountains leading five wild mares into the barn. “What wonderful luck!” said the neighbors. “Maybe.” The next day the son, trying to tame one of the horses, fell and broke his leg. “How terrible, what bad luck!” “Maybe.” Later that week, the army came to all the farms to take young men for war. During the battle that followed, many of the village men lost their lives. Because of his broken leg, the farmer’s son was of no use to them so he was...

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Story: The Four Flies

Posted by on Nov 22, 2013 in Curriculum, Kids Program, Stories | 1 comment

Story: The Four Flies

A Samurai was calmly eating his supper in a small inn, ignoring four flies, which kept buzzing round him. Three Ronin (masterless samurai) came in: they looked enviously at the two magnificent swords which the man had fixed in his belt, for these weapons represented a small fortune, A look of intense satisfaction came over their faces: the man seemed to be defenseless and alone against three. Sitting at a nearby table, they began to make to make fun of him in raised voices in the hope that he would be provoked into a duel, As the man remained completely indifferent to them, they got more and more acid. Slowly raising the chopsticks with which he had just eaten his rice, the samurai effortlessly struck each of the four flies in four quick, precise actions, after which he delicately put down the tools, and all without so much as glancing at the three boors. A heavy silence followed. The three Ronin looking at each other realized that before them was a man of formidable mastery. Frightened, they fled. Much later, they learnt that this man who had so shrewdly spared them was called Miyamoto...

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Story: The Fisherman and the Samurai

Posted by on Nov 22, 2013 in Curriculum, Kids Program, Stories | 1 comment

Story: The Fisherman and the Samurai

A long time ago during the reign of the Tokagawa Shogunate a samurai set out on an errand. Precisely one year ago to the day he had lent 10 koku to a fisherman in a small coastal village nearby, and today was the day the fisherman had promised he would repay the debt. The samurai arrived in the village at noon and upon inquiring at the fisherman’s home he was told by the fisherman’s wife that he would find the man down at his boat working on his nets. Upon seeing the samurai coming up the beach the fisherman threw himself to the ground and bowed his head to the sand. “Get up,” said the samurai, “As agreed it has been one year and I have come to collect the money you owe me.” “I have not forgotten my debt to you,” said the fisherman, who now stood but with his head still bowed, “but it has been a very bad year for me and I regret that I do not have the money I owe you.” Hearing this the samurai, who was not a man known for his patience, flushed with anger and quickly drew his sword, preparing to kill the fisherman then and there. “Why should I not simply slay you instead?” shouted the samurai as he raised the deadly blade above his head. Fearing that his life was at and end and having nothing to lose the fisherman boldly spoke out. “For some time now I have been studying martial arts,” he replied, “and one of the lessons that my master teaches, is never to strike when you are angry.” “I beg you,” said the fisherman, “give me one more year to pay you what I owe.” Thinking about what the fisherman had just said the samurai slowly lowered his sword. “Your master is wise,” said the samurai, “as a student of the art of the sword I too have heard that lesson many times, but sometimes I get so angry I act without thinking.” Putting away his sword the samurai spoke in a voice that was use to being obeyed. “You shall have another year to repay your debt to me,” he said, “but when I return if you do not have all the money you owe me I shall not hesitate to take your life instead.” and without another word he turned and walked away. Having left the village later than he intended to it was already dark by the time the samurai arrived home. Seeing no lights on in the house he crept in quietly not wishing to wake the servants or his wife. As he entered his bed chamber he notice that there were two persons lying on his futon, one he recognized as his wife and the other from their clothing was unmistakably another samurai. Swiftly he drew his sword and as his anger quickly grew he moved in to slay them both. Just then, as he was about to strike, the fisherman’s words came back to him, “never strike when you are angry.” This time I shall follow the lesson he thought to himself, pausing he took a deep breath and tried to relax, then on purpose he made a loud noise. Hearing the sound both his wife and the...

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Story: The Challenge

Posted by on Nov 22, 2013 in Curriculum, Kids Program, Stories | 1 comment

Story: The Challenge

One day a hungry old man entered a small village and noticed a sign proclaiming the name of a local Iaido school. Knowing that it was customary for a dojo’s Sensei to accept all challenges the old man decided upon a very dangerous plan. If he could entice the Sensei into a duel and be defeated but not killed, he would then by tradition be offered food and drink, as well as a place to sleep for the night. Summoning up all of his courage the old man approached the dojo and then walking boldly in he proclaimed his intention to challenge the Sensei to a duel. In response a senior student stepped forward, introduced himself, and said that his Sensei was at home resting but that he would gladly accept the challenge in his place. The old man refused and instead asked that a student be sent to the Sensei’s home to tell him of the challenge. Upon hearing his students report of the events that had just taken place the Sensei immediately put on his swords and hurried to the dojo. When the Sensei arrived he and the old man politely bowed to each other and in turn introduced themselves, after which the old man re-issued his challenge, but explained that it was not his intention to challenge for ownership of the dojo as was sometimes the case, this duel was merely to be a test of each man’s skill with a sword. The Sensei accepted and because of the nature of the challenge and they agreed to fight using only wooden bokken (practice swords) so that if a customary fatal cut was made neither man would be killed. The old man in truth had no skill at all with a sword, he was simply seeking a meal and a place to rest and this plan had seemed to offer the best prospect for success and so as he stood facing the dojo’s Sensei across the tatami mat he just held the wooden sword very casually at his side. The Sensei upon observing how open the old man was to an attack and how unbelievably foolish his defensive posture appeared, suddenly began to believe that this duel might not have been such a good idea after all. Slowly in his mind he began to wonder about the old man’s skill and in turn he began to doubt himself and his own chances for victory. He knew, however, that his own reputation and that of his dojo was at stake and so he took an aggressive posture. For what seemed a very long time the two men just stood there facing one another, neither of them made even the slightest move. The old man for his part could not understand what was taking so long, but he knew he had no choice in the matter; all he could do was wait for the Sensei to attack and claim his victory. The Sensei on the other hand had by now thoroughly convinced himself that he did indeed face a true Iaido master, but even so he knew that he must do something very soon and so he started to move towards the old man, determined to press home his attack with all of his skill even though he felt...

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Story: Matajuro and the Art of the Sword

Posted by on Nov 20, 2013 in Kids Program, Stories | 1 comment

Story: Matajuro and the Art of the Sword

Matajuro Yagyu, son of a renowned master of the sword, was relegated by his father, who believed his efforts were not sufficient to become a true master. Matajuro, who had decided, despite everything, to conquer that objective, traveled to mount Futara with the intent of finding the famous master Banzo, but this master only confirmed his father’s judgement: “You do not fill the requirements.” “But, if I work hard, how many years does take for me to become a master?” Insisted the young man. “The rest of your life.” answered Banzo matter-of-factly. “I cannot wait that long. I am willing to endure whatever it takes to learn with you. If I become your devoted servant, how long will it take?” “Oh, perhaps some ten years.” Banzo replied. “Well, my father grows ill and, before long I will have to take care of him. If I work even harder, how long will it take?” he implored. “Oh, then perhaps some thirty years.” “I do not understand. First it was ten years, now it’s thirty. Believe me, I am willing to endure anything to master this art as soon as possible.” he pleaded. “Well, in that case, you will have to spend seventy years with me. A man that anxious for results cannot learn fast enough.” explained Banzo. “Very well,” declared Matajuro, “I finally understand that it’s a matter of patience, I accept to become your servant.” It was then demanded of Matajuro that he would not speak of the art of the sword or touch a sword again. He served the master, preparing his meals, cleaning his rooms and tending to his garden, always without uttering a single word about the art of the sword. He was even forbidden to watch the training of the other students. Three years passed and Matajuro, always working, thinking often of his misfortune, since he could still not devote his life to the study of the art he had chosen. One day, while he was tending his chores, lost in his sad thoughts, Banzo crept close to him, and struck him hard on his back with the Bokken. On the next day, Matajuro was preparing the rice and the master attacked him again, when he least expected. From that day forward, Matajuro was forced to defend himself day and night from the sudden attacks of Banzo, always alert to avoid the sword of the master. He learnt so quickly that his concentration, his speed and a sort of sixth sense enabled him to avoid Banzo’s attacks. Then one day, before completing ten years after his arrival, the master told him he had nothing more to teach...

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