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Soren Gordhamer

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Wisdom 2.0. -- The Tale of the Zen Master and the Chess Game

Posted: 04/08/10 11:37 AM ET

There once lived a young man who was very sad and unsatisfied. He went to visit a Zen temple, thinking this may help.

"You must know that I am quite useless," the boy explained upon meeting the Zen master of the temple. "I have never committed myself to anything for any length of time, and I have no real skills. But I want to learn and I wonder if there is any way for someone like me."

"Well," said the Zen master, "there is, but it is not easy. First, tell me what you have you studied?"

"Not much. The only thing I was really interested in was chess."

"Ah," replied the master, and he summoned one of his assistants. "Fetch me a chess board, now," he commanded, "and bring a very sharp sword too."

To this the young man became quite nervous. What on earth could he want with a sword?

When the assistant returned, the Zen teacher announced, "Now, the two of you will play a game of chess. If you lose," he said, looking at his assistant, "I will cut off your head, but don't worry you will be reborn in a heavenly realm. And if this young man loses, I will cut off his head, for he will deserve it. Chess is the only thing he knows how to do and if he can't win a single game of chess, what use is he?"

The two players were horrified. They hoped he was joking, but one look at the Zen teacher's face revealed that he was serious.

Once the game started, the young man had never before been so focused. His entire life depended on this game, and his complete attention was on it. As such, he played well, and started to win. But as he neared victory, he realized that if he won his opponent would die. He peered at the Zen master's assistant across from him, and thought how much he would not want him to die. At this compassion arose in him, and the young man started intentionally making mistakes to give his opponent the victory.

At this, the Zen teacher knocked over the board. The two players looked at him, shocked, uncertain what was next. "No one will die here today," he announced, directing his gaze at the young man. "Only two things are required on the path: complete concentration and complete compassion. You have learned them both here today. You had complete concentration on the game and you had compassion for your opponent."

The Wisdom 2.0 Conference

There is no question for most of us ifwe are going to live a connected life, use cell phones, read blogs, and engage on social networks. The real question is how are we going to do so?

Are we going to engage with concentration and compassion, like the boy in the story, or are we going to live increasingly distracted and overwhelmed?

The Wisdom 2.0 Conference, occurring the end of this April in Silicon Valley, brings staff from technology companies such as Twitter, Google, Facebook and others to explore this question: How can we too learn the value of compassion and concentration amidst the chess game of our modern life? How can we use the technologies of our effectively, in touch with a sense of meaning and purpose?

More information at: The Wisdom 2.0 Conference

 
 
 

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