The One Hundred Parable Sutra is known as one of the most humorous and playful sutras in Buddhist literature. Kazuaki Tanahashi, the famous translator, calligrapher, and Dogen scholar, and Peter Levitt (Fingerpainting on The Moon), an award-winning poet, storyteller, and Zen practitioner, have translated and retold these stories for modern times.
During our lives all of us are driven by illusions, delusions, desires, and fantasies that imprison us. The Chinese Buddhist teachers who gathered these parables used them to enable others to see the folly of their ways. Peter Levitt in the foreword notes: "I admit to loving these tales. In virtually every case, whatever understanding I gained while living in their worlds was accompanied by a delicious and quite childlike delight. There were times when I giggled with the recognition of my own foolishness, or the foolishness of friends, and I felt renewed, forgiving, and forgiven. I even found myself on the phone before I knew it, reciting the tales to friends. There was a lot of laughter between us." These parables remind us that in all spiritual traditions humor is considered a valid teaching tool and playfulness is a spiritual gift.
Here is one of these Buddhist tales of wisdom and laughter. It is entitled Monkey Beans.
"Long ago, a monkey who held a handful of beans dropped one by mistake on the ground. When he saw this, he threw all the others away so that his hand would be free to pick up the bean that had dropped. However, before he could do that, all the beans he had tossed away were descended upon and eaten by some nearby chickens and ducks.
"Many monks are like this. They hold the precepts in their hands, but some small mistake or error causes them to break one and they do not regret it. This lack of regret weakens their resolve to maintain the precepts and they end up throwing away everything, including their futures. They are like the monkey who lost one bean and so foolishly threw the others away."