zen story Maybe


zen story: Maybe | I AM TECHNOLOGY blog by Trey Warme, San Diego #iamtechnology - horse herdI am technology. #blog

zen story Maybe | I AM TECHNOLOGY blog by Trey Warme, San Diego


There is an old zen story Maybe, that has been retold many ways that I just love. The story is known as a koan to some zen practitioners. A koan is an unanswerable riddle of sorts, designed to help the attempting solver to recognize how they always reach for explanations and answers based on what they have experienced, instead of basing their reality through through direct experience now. Koans are asked of students by zen teachers, oftentimes in a private interview setting, the students answers are accepted or rejected by the teacher, then the same or another question is asked.

The Not What You Think article on the Dharma Field site, a Zen Meditation Center in Minneapolis, gives the following description of a koan, “Rather than serving up an idea or conceptual framework that will supposedly save us, koans help us to recognize how we constantly do indeed reach for prefabricated explanations and answers. They also help us to see that this never gets us anywhere. Indeed, it is this very grasping for conceptual solutions and explanations that causes us so many problems. Yet even as we grasp at concepts, we overlook the supreme treasure that is right at hand—Reality itself.”

I share below, the Maybe zen story version found on the daily zen blog.

zen story: Maybe | I AM TECHNOLOGY blog by Trey Warme, San Diego #iamtechnology - zen-story-maybe-horseNow, on to the story…


A farmer’s horse ran away. His neighbors gathered upon hearing the news and said sympathetically, “That’s such bad luck.”

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The horse returned on his own the next morning, and brought seven wild horses with it. “Look how many more horses you have now,” the neighbors exclaimed. “How lucky!”

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next day, the farmer’s son attempted to ride one of the wild horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. “How awful,” the neighbors said. “It looks like your luck has turned for the worse again.”

The farmer simply replied, “Maybe.”

The following day, military officers came to town to conscript young men into the service. Seeing the son’s broken leg, they rejected him. The neighbors gathered round the farmer to tell him how fortunate he was.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.


What do you think? Let’s hear it in the comments!



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Here are some people’s reactions to the zen story Maybe, found on the Zen Stories to Tell Your Neighbors site by John Suler, Ph.D., internationally recognized expert in emerging fields of psychology:


“It’s comforting to know that good can come from bad circumstances, but not so nice to face the fact that bad can come from good times. Yet, is there good and bad at all?”

“I guess there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Everything that happens to us is a mixture of good and bad. You have to just take things as they are.”

“Everything happens for a reason, and worrying about what has or will happen has no effect. So don’t worry, be happy!”

“Never judge a situation – wait for the outcome.”

“You can’t fight fate!”

“God controls our lives. We may not understand his purpose, so just accept what happens.”

“Nothing – I mean NOTHING occurs by accident!”

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!”

“I think the farmer didn’t want to jinx himself by agreeing with his neighbors.”

“If you try to predict the future, you may be wasting your time. I wonder, then, how worthwhile is it to plan for the future?”

“This farmer apparently doesn’t believe in free will. When he always replies ‘maybe’ he must feel that no matter what he says or does it will not make a difference in the path his life takes.”

“I think there’s a fine line between optimism and pessimism, the farmer is standing on it.”

“We never know what will happen in life. Man is so narrow-minded and naive, yet he claims to know it all. No one knows where fate will bring us, but people who have faith in God will have everything set right.”

“Although the story may provide relief to people who believe that a superior being is looking out for us, it in effect tells us to accept our situation without trying to change it. I’m not sure I agree with that.”

“Que sera, sera. Life is a mystery. Don’t take it for granted. Accept it, and try to enjoy the ride.”

“I wish I could be as relaxed and peaceful as this farmer. My mother always told me that I shouldn’t worry about things that I can’t change.”

“This farmer has mastered the art of letting go and letting life take its course. But he also seems to be a bit unfeeling. I don’t think that has to be sacrificed for serenity.”

“I don’t think this farmer realized how lucky he was that his son didn’t have to go off to war. A broken leg is always better than getting killed!”

“This farmer sure is a man of few words!”

“If you take life just as it comes, one day at time, eventually you will be able to see the Big Purpose to it all.”

“This story reminds me of the Book of Job in the Old Testament.”

“Life isn’t a matter of good or bad luck. It’s about what you do with what happens to you – where and how you take it.”

“I don’t like the fact that there isn’t a lot of information about the farmer in this story. The neighbors don’t seem to understand how he feels about life. I guess the message is that if you think positive about events in your life, they will turn out OK.”

“This farmer sounds rather confused – maybe because things are happening so fast in his life.”

“First this story is about crops, then about horses, then about broken legs! There’s probably some deep meaning in here, but it’s over my head.”

“Tell the neighbors to mind their own business!”zen story

“Is there meaning to this story? maybe..”


What do you think? Let’s hear it in the comments!



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