Can’t Get It Right? Let Go

Monday Mar 22nd, 2021


The story is told of a Zen monk who was asked to dedicate a temple by writing the words “The First Principle” using his best calligraphy for display above the main door.

The monk sat at his table and carefully made the symbols on a sheet of paper. But a Zen master looked at it and said, “That’s no good. Can you try again?” The monk performed his calligraphic art a second time with the master standing over him. Once he’d finished, the master again said, “No, that’s still not good enough. Do it again.”

The monk worked all afternoon and into the night, with the demanding master rejecting one attempt after another. He was close to exhaustion when the master finally stepped away to attend to other duties.

Relieved for a time from the pressure of observation, the monk sighed and mindlessly sketched the symbols again, without paying attention to the finer points of his art. The master returned a few minutes later, looked at the paper, and smiled. “That’s perfect.”


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