The Eight Winds and a Fart

A student and a Zen master lived across the river from each other and they often discussed Buddhism. One day the student, whose name was 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 lotus.

So here he is, and he is basically saying that he has attained a very high level of spirituality. He is no longer buffeted around by the eight winds. He is impressed with himself. Then he sends a servant to hand-carry this poem to the Zen Master across the river, Foyin. And when he reads the poem, Foyin immediately sees that it is a declaration of spiritual refinement. Smiling, the Zen Master wrote the word “fart” on the manuscript and had it returned to Su Dongpo.

So, Su Dongpo is there thinking he is pretty cool and expecting compliments and a seal of approval, and he sees the word “fart” and he gets really, really upset. “How dare he insult me like this, what a lousy old monk, he’s got a lot of explaining to do!” He gets his things together and, indignant, he rushes out of his house and he orders a boat to ferry him to the other side of the shore so he can set this guy straight. He wants an apology. However, Foyin’s door is closed, and on the door is a piece of paper for Su Dongpo. It says: “The eight winds cannot move me. One fart blows me across the river.”

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