During the civil war in Korea, a certain general and his troops were advancing implacably, taking province after province, destroying everything in their path. The people in one city, hearing that the general was approaching and knowing his cruel reputation, fled to a nearby mountain.
The troops found the houses empty. After much searching, though, they found one Zen monk who had stayed behind. The general ordered that he be brought before him, but the monk refused to go.
Furious, the general went to him instead.
‘You obviously don’t know who I am!’ he bawled. ‘I am capable of stabbing you in the chest with my sword without so much as blinking.’
The Zen master turned and replied calmly:
‘You obviously don’t know who I am either. I am capable of letting myself be stabbed in the chest by a sword without so much as blinking.’
On hearing this, the general bowed low and left.