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How Fart Can Make You Grow Spiritually – Su Dongpo’s Story

Category: Featured, Very Short Stories

Monk
Photo Courtesy of beggs

Su Shi (1036-1101), also known as Su Dongpo was an avid student of Buddhist teachings. He was quick-witted and humorous; as a Zen Buddhism follower he was very serious and self-disciplined. He often discussed buddhism with his good friend, Zen Master Foyin. The two lived across the river from one another.

Following is an interesting and famous story about him and Zen Master Foyin.

One day, Su Dongpo felt inspired and wrote the following poem:

I bow my head to the heaven within heaven
Hairline rays illuminating the universe
The eight winds cannot move me
Sitting still upon the purple golden lotus

The “eight winds” in the poem referred to praise, ridicule, honor, disgrace, gain, loss, pleasure and misery – interpersonal forces of the material world that drive and influence the hearts of men. Su Dongpo was saying that he has attained a higher level of spirituality, where these forces no longer affect him.

Impressed by himself, Su Dongpo sent a servant to hand-carry this poem to Foyin. He was sure that his friend would be equally impressed. When Foyin read the poem, he immediately saw that it was both a tribute to the Buddha and a declaration of spiritual refinement. Smiling, the Zen Master wrote “fart” on the manuscript and had it returned to Su Dongpo.

Su Dongpo was expecting compliments and a seal of approval. When he saw “fart” written on the manuscript, he was shocked . He burst into anger: “How dare he insult me like this? Why that lousy old monk! He’s got a lot of explaining to do!”

Full of indignation, he rushed out of his house and ordered a boat to ferry him to the other shore as quickly as possible. He wanted to find Foyin and demand an apology. However, Foyin’s door closed. On the door was a piece of paper, for Su Dongpo. The paper had following two lines:

The eight winds cannot move me
One fart blows me across the river

This stopped Su Dongpo cold. Foyin had anticipated this hot-headed visit. Su Dongpo’s anger suddenly drained away as he understood his friend’s meaning. If he really was a man of spiritual refinement,
completely unaffected by the eight winds, then how could he be so easily provoked?

With a few strokes of the pen and minimal effort, Foyin showed that Su Dongpo was in fact not as spiritually advanced as he claimed to be. Ashamed but wiser, Su Dongpo departed quietly.

This event proved to be a turning point in Su Dongpo’s spiritual development. From that point on, he became a man of humility, and not merely someone who boasted of possessing the virtue.

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Reader's Comments

  1. Vered | August 8th, 2008 at 2:58 pm

    “If he really was a man of spiritual refinement,
    completely unaffected by the eight winds, then how could he be so easily provoked?”

    What a great story, and I love the moral of the story!

    Humility is hard. I think it’s human nature to be vain and self-centered. It’s one of my major goals… but it’s not easy to achieve.

    Vered’s last blog post..Happy, Then Not

    Reply to this comment
  2. Marelisa | August 8th, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Hi Avani: Oh, now I see why it says “fart” in the title. That’s so funny :-)

    Marelisa’s last blog post..Happiness Extravaganza: Tips, Tidbits, and Tools

    Reply to this comment
  3. Urban Panther | August 8th, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Whenever someone critisized me, I would immediately defend myself in indignation. It is still my immediate reaction, but I have learned to quickly quell it, and listen to what personal lesson I can take from the criticism. It’s hard, but a lot can be gained through humility.

    BTW, I used to be absolutely horrified to fart within anyone’s earshot. I do mean anyone. My kids..adult kids…if they let one loose amongst family just giggle and say “I fahhhrted”. I love their acceptance of natural bodily functions, and I’m trying not to be quite so stuffy. *grin* Of course, they do try to be discreet in public. I raised with some sense of decorum.

    This was an excellent story. Didn’t see the punchline until I got to it.

    Urban Panther’s last blog post..The toughest crowd yet

    Reply to this comment
  4. Bamboo Forest | August 8th, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Farts can teach us a lot. Indeed.

    Bamboo Forest’s last blog post..8-8-08

    Reply to this comment
  5. John Rocheleau - Zen-Moments | August 8th, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Yes, how easy it is to know some truths, but our knowledge has little to do with our living and “being” these truths.

    The knowledge of a thing is not the thing itself. Knowledge is just a dead thought that needs life breathed into it through experience and discipline.

    Nice one :-)

    John

    John Rocheleau – Zen-Moments’s last blog post..Happiness is a Yellow Flower

    Reply to this comment
  6. Bill K. | August 8th, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Great story. I can’t even count the number of farts that have blown me across rivers. Or the number of people I’ve seen propelled by said farts.

    Bill K.’s last blog post..Time to post: Do you know where your editor is?

    Reply to this comment
  7. Amanda Linehan | August 8th, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Thanks for passing along this story – really funny. And, it is amazing how the smallest things provoke us.

    Amanda Linehan’s last blog post..Don’t Abandon Your Dreams

    Reply to this comment
  8. Jennifer | August 8th, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    That was a funny story indeed – and with a good lesson attached.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Evelyn Lim | August 9th, 2008 at 12:06 am

    Oh yes…this is a very classic Buddhist story…and one that I use to constantly remind myself. The key lesson to me is that being on a spiritual journey myself does not make me superior to anybody. Always practice humility, peace and compassion.

    Evelyn Lim’s last blog post..Walk On Water With 7 Magic Stones

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  10. Linda Abbit | August 9th, 2008 at 1:41 am

    Great story, excellent lesson for us all. Thanks for sharing it!

    Do you think Americans are less humble than people from other countries? (I’m watching the Parade of Nations during the Opening Ceremonies as I write this.)

    Reply to this comment
  11. Davina | August 9th, 2008 at 3:45 am

    Loved the story, and the moral of it! Farts are just hot air from one end, while the ego blows hot air from the other… that’s my brilliant metaphor :-)

    @Bamboo Forest… hilarious comment!

    Reply to this comment
  12. Barbara Swafford | August 9th, 2008 at 5:05 am

    Hi Avani,

    What a great story with a lesson that is great for all of us. It pays to try and be humble.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Open Mic – Monthly Mini Meme Friday

    Reply to this comment
  13. Shilpan | successsoul.com | August 9th, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Avani -

    The story’s moral teaching is to preach to others only if we have practiced it ourselves. One great soul that comes to mind is Mahatma Gandhi.

    Shilpan

    Shilpan | successsoul.com’s last blog post..Johnny Carson’s 7 Techniques for Effective Public Speaking

    Reply to this comment
  14. Al at 7P | August 9th, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Hi Avani – great story about humility. Great title too… it got me riveted to find out the importance of a fart!

    Al at 7P’s last blog post..The Hero with a Thousand Jobs

    Reply to this comment
  15. Niyati | August 13th, 2008 at 10:10 am

    hey!!
    this waas a very nice article!!
    Regards,
    Niyati Gathani

    Reply to this comment
  16. Nicki | August 24th, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Hi Avani,

    love this witty story, you definately get peoples attention with the caption! Brilliant considering pride is always there no matter how humble you try and become.

    Reply to this comment
  17. Sara at On Simplicity | August 31st, 2008 at 1:00 am

    I’m a sucker for a good fart joke (something it’s taken me *years* to ‘fess up to!), but one with meaning tops it all.

    It’s easy to talk a good game, it’s another live it.

    Sara at On Simplicity’s last blog post..Three Things You’d Save in an Emergency

    Reply to this comment
  18. anil datt | September 2nd, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    Ha…Ha…Ha….Ha..hahahahahahahahahahah………Hm…Hm…Hmmm ? Hmmmmmmm ! Oh..ohhh !!!

    Reply to this comment
  19. Prathibha | June 9th, 2009 at 5:09 am

    That totally lived up to piqued title!

    Prathibha´s last blog post..Singing a Duet

    Reply to this comment
  20. Devendra | October 16th, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Hi Avani…Thanks for Sharing this Wonderfully Humbling Story. I consciously try to ingrain this all important quality of Humility…now I’ve got a Reminder system….every time I fart..I remind myself to practice Humility a little more.

    Reply to this comment
  21. Ram | December 17th, 2009 at 6:51 am

    Hi Avani,
    Thanks for this nice article which reminded me of a very similar subject, but the story is different — in a book called “Returning to the source” –OSHO which not only talks about humility but talks about ZEN’s perspective of EGOISM and SIMPLICITY. In fact, I happened to get hold of this book when I was in Mumbai some time back..
    Good work.

    Reply to this comment
  22. Mike | Outofstress.com | July 12th, 2010 at 8:41 am

    That’s a great story. I have seen several men in real life who claim to be enlightened but are not free from their egos. Guess they all need to read and learn from this story.

    Reply to this comment
  23. afshan | August 21st, 2010 at 12:38 am

    just amazing .THE end is sooooo meaningful!!

    wud love if u can gimme few tips to grow as a writer avani
    THANKS

    Reply to this comment
  24. Lucy@weight loss | September 4th, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    lol, that title sure hooked me in, i was like what a fart? clever, and yes humility can make you grow if you allow it to.

    Reply to this comment

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  1. [...] On that same note, watch Avani Mehti spin toilet humor into deep meaning with How a Fart Can Make You Grow Spiritually. [...]

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