Where is the umbrella?

By Paulo Coelho

After ten years of study, Zenno believed that he was ready to be made a Zen master. One rainy day, he went to visit the famous teacher Nan-in.

When Zenno went into the house, Nan-in asked:

‘Did you leave your umbrella and your shoes outside?’

‘Of course, I did,’ replied Zenno. ‘It’s only polite. I would do the same thing anywhere.’

‘Then tell me this: did you place your umbrella to the right or to the left of your shoes?’

‘I haven’t the slightest idea, master.’

‘Zen Buddhism is the art of being totally aware of one’s every action,’ said Nan-in.

‘Lack of attention to apparently minor details can completely destroy a man’s life. A father hurrying out of his house must never leave a dagger within reach of his small son. A Samurai who does not polish his sword every day will find that when most he needs it, the sword has grown rusty. A young man who forgets to give flowers to his beloved will end up losing her.’

And Zenno understood that, although he had a good knowledge of Zen techniques when applied to the spiritual world, he had forgotten to apply them to the world of men.

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