Student or Learner
I don't konw in the following article, "a chicken" means a little chick or a rooster?
Once upon a time there was a Shogun who wanted a nice picture of a chicken to go in his tokonoma.
So, he went to a very fine artist (Hiroshige? Sharaku?) and said, "I want you to paint me the best picture of a chicken that you can."
So, the artist said, "Hai, hai, mochiron, kore o shimasu." (Yes, yes, certainly, I will do this.)
The artist went to his cabin high on Mount Fuji. He brought books of bird anatomy, many studies of birds done by all the famous artists of the past, He sculpted chickens, he painted chickens in oil, he did one woodblock after another of nothing but chickens. He depicted chickens in bushido poses, crashing through the shoji in a samurai palace. He drew noble portraits of chickens in virtuous attitudes. He used a sumie brush to catch every nuance of a chicken's life. He painted chickens in the landscape and in the boudoir, on the battlefield and in the barn.
Ten years passed.
One day the shogun was at archery practice when he thought of his request to the artist. He immediately mounted his steed and made his way to the artist's cabin. It was hard to enter the door. There were sketches of chickens stacked to the ceiling. There were statues of chickens everywhere. There were skeletons of chickens and paintings of chickens. There was nowhere to sit and very little space to stand.
"Where is my chicken drawing?" demanded the Shogun.
"Oh," said the artist, "I forgot, sorry." And he took a brush, whirled it very quickly on a piece of rice paper, handed the paper to the Shogun, and said, "Here."
I wonder what the message of this story is. Is it something like "practice makes perfect" or something more complex? What do you make of this story?
Really, It's a question that puzzles me: what does the story want to tell us? I find the story on net and couldn't understand it. I desperately want to hear your oppinion about it!!! And thank you Kimberly07 and Naamplao
This story is a parable and is meant to educate someone spiritually.
I found this story below as well and the one you posted on this website.
Time To Learn
A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master:
"If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to find Zen."
The Master thought about this, then replied, "Ten years."
The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast -- How long then ?"
Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years."
"But, if I really, really work at it. How long then ?" asked the student.
"Thirty years," replied the Master.
"But, I do not understand," said the disappointed student. "At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that ?"
Replied the Master," When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path."
I really feel the above story is true. There are many many parables on this website. I thank you for making me look for your first story for it is because of that that I found all the others. They are good stories to provoke a discussion.
As far as your chicken/artist parable goes, I am not sure I interpret it properly but it seems to me that the story is trying to say that the pursuit of knowledge is more important than the actual application of it. The artist, when faced with drawing something he didn't understand, threw himself into the learning process with such vigor that the original problem (to draw a chicken) was trivial. That is my thoughts on the story.
Again, thank you for bringing this to my attention.
Last edited by Naamplao; 12-Oct-2007 at 15:35.
I totally agree with your interpretation. And as you rightly pointed out, parables are meant to teach us. Unfortunately, to me personally this lesson doesn't seem very practical. If we need to learn something in real life, how can we forget about our goal and spend a great amount of time on unnecessary details? I wouldn't go by this fable. It might be good for Zen practitioners though.
I can understand what you are saying and your point of view but I don't agree with it.
Those "unnecessary" details that were learned in the process of investigating the drawing of a chicken may well lead to further discoveries about chickens.
Recall the shogun...walked through tons of material regarding chickens when he confronted the artist...but none of it interested the shogun. He just wanted a simple picture.
Another person approaching the artist may see something in that "chicken" research that inspires him to do further research. So would the artist's "unnecessary" work be useless??? I don't think so.
In a way I think, in a modern context, there is a parallel here to scientific research and practical science(application). Many think that a scientist is wasting his time working on research that is thought to be trivial . But is he? Someone may read the research and be inspired to discover something great from it.
I heard a different version of the story:
The shogun asked the painted to make the drawing of a heron.
The painter answered that it would be ready in ten years' time. The shogun was furious inside himself that such a renown artist should make him wait such a long time.
Ten years later, he went to see the painter who took a sheet of paper, some ink and a brush. In a few seconds he made the most beautiful painting of a heron that the shogun had ever seen.
But the shogun said "You made a fool of me, it just took you a few seconds to make a perfect drawing, and you made me wait ten years!". So he called his men and ordered them to put the painter to death.
But the painter's son rushed into the room and begged the shogun to come and see the painter's workshop: there, hundreds of drawing of a heron were piled up to the ceiling.
So the shogun understood that perfection doesn't come at once, and that learning a perfect gesture can take years of practise.
I much prefer this version, it makes more sense to me...
Thank you for your discussions, I think I get more meanings from the story now.And thank you ALANINK,for bring me another version, I like it,too.
By the way, I know many of the zen stories come from my country-China. For zen story, the rule is no message pointed out clearly in the end, it encourages everyone to think and get their own answers, that is the point.