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51 Zen Stories: Great Waves

Hato zu, A print by Uehara Konen

Though the Meiji era was full of challenges for the wrestlers in Japan, few still managed to withstand the trouble and flourish– one of them being O-nami, Great Waves.

O-nami was immensely strong and an adept at wrestling. In his private bouts, he defeated even his teacher. Even so, he could not win any contest as he was timorous in public. So much so that his own pupils threw him.

Disappointed with himself, O-nami decided to ask a zen master for help. Hakuju, a teacher at a Tendai-sect college, was on a brief stay in a little temple nearby, so O-nami went to see him and told him of his trouble.

‘Great Waves is your name,’ the teacher advised, ‘so stay in this temple tonight. Imagine that you are those billows. You are no longer a wrestler who is afraid. You are those huge waves sweeping everything before them, swallowing all in their path. Do this and you’ll be the greatest wrestler in the land.’

Hakuju retired. O-nami obeyed and began meditating, trying to imagine himself as one of those huge waves. He thought of many different things. Then, gradually, he turned more and more to the feelings of the waves. As the night progressed so did the waves. They swept away the flowers in their vases. Even the Buddha in the shrine was inundated. Before dawn, the temple was nothing but the ebb and flow of an immense sea.

It was morning and O-nami was still meditating, a faint smile on his face. Hakuju patted his shoulder. ‘Now nothing can disturb you,’ he said, ‘You are those waves. You will sweep everything before you.’

The same day O-nami entered a wrestling contest and won. He remained, thereafter, undefeated in Japan.


6 thoughts on “51 Zen Stories: Great Waves

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  1. I read this story in the book aswell and both of these versions are so original and simple to read. But i really like how you add these extra informations in the story. Familiarising the reader about the background helps a lot.

    Liked by 6 people

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