Problems

vase

The guard of a zen master in one of the most esteemed monasteries passed away. Once this happened, the zen master started looking for a replacement throughout the country, and several men applied. Once they had all gathered in the monastery, the zen master explained the following:”I am looking for a new guard. I will give all of you one test, a problem, and whoever solves it first will become the new guard”.

Having said that, the zen master dragged in a little table from an adjacent room. Onto the table, he placed a beautiful vase. “This is the problem, now solve it” he said. The applicants said, not knowing what to do. They looked at the vase, its intricate details, color scheme. They discussed where it was from, and how old it was.

Suddenly, one of the students exclaimed: “I have it”. He got up, walked towards the vase, and with one swift motion, knocked it off the table. When it hit the ground, it shattered into a million little pieces. “Excellent”, the zen master exclaimed, “with this I have found the new guard. Thank you all, and congratulations to you”. With this, the new guard was chosen.

So, now over to you: Why do you think he became the new guard?

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10 thoughts on “Problems

  1. Shumina says:

    There are many reasons why I could think of this as the correct solution. The table having to support implied beauty/perfection, an empty vessel is worthless, a guard’s duty is not to appreciate beauty but uncover hidden threats, ETC.

    To me, personally, I would have to think as the zen master, choosing one who takes action over those that do not would be a wise course of action.

  2. ymarsakar says:

    Unless the Zen Master really didn’t want somebody to watch over him like he was a vase, perhaps he wanted a Nemesis or a challenger, rather than a guard.

  3. ctc says:

    How do you deal with a problem? Get rid of it. If the vase is the problem and it no longer exists then the problem has been solved.

  4. I could agree with any number of the answers given so far… When do we find out the real answer?

  5. Grant hardeway says:

    Each candidate did their best to impress the Zen Master with their ability to enjoy the vase for “what is WAS”. They were asked to solve the present problem. Only one candidate chose to do the “unthinkable” and act as an individual without thinking of what should be done but rather doing it.
    Could it be that the zen master was looking for guard who could act and think of his own accord without searching for his approval?

  6. Phantomias says:

    As Zen koan’s go, theoretically there is only one answer. however, in the spirit of discovery, I think all of the above answers do have something going for them, each one brining a new insight into the riddle.

    Theoretically, it wants to show that you have to tackle a problem instead of just looking at it and marveling in awe. For me though, all the answers are correct, and I have taken something from each one of them. Thank you very much for that…

  7. ctc says:

    I would add that all the answers presume a certain perspective of the zen master. Barring the revelation of the master’s thinking are we not all mere speculators?

  8. ZenWarrior says:

    The best of guards refuse the status quo.

  9. […] and Harry on the different ways that you can look at your team, and a real brain teaser over at Achievement in Mind.  (You can also add your tuppence worth as to the answer, that is if you can crack the problem […]

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