Zen Story: The Tiger and the Strawberry

zen tigerThe story I’m about to tell you, originally told by the Buddha in a sutra, concerns a Zen Master who, while out walking one day, is confronted by a ferocious, man-eating tiger. He slowly backs away from the animal, only to find that he is trapped at the edge of a high cliff; the tiger snarls with hunger, and pursues the Master. His only hope of escape is to suspend himself over the abyss by holding onto a vine that grows at its edge. As the Master dangles from the cliff, two mice – one white and one black – begin to gnaw on the vine he is clutching on. If he climbs back up, the tiger will surely devour him, if he stays then there is the certain death of a long fall onto the jagged rocks. The slender vine begins to give way, and death is imminent. Just then the precariously suspended Zen Master notices a lovely ripe wild strawberry growing along the cliff’s edge. He plucks the succulent berry and pops it into his mouth. He is heard to say: “This lovely strawberry, how sweet it tastes.”


27 thoughts on “Zen Story: The Tiger and the Strawberry

  1. Deep.

    The sad thing is that everywhere we look everyone is still stuck in an illusionary reality of their past or future. Thank you for posting this insightful story up for others and I to read.


  2. Thanks for the comment, it is sad but it’s an inevitable aspect of our human karma to live in the past and the future – planes of reality that do not exist, and have suffering built into them. But there is hope that people stuck in the illusion will see life for what it really is. There are still moments when I reflect on the past or think about the future, but I no longer hold as much importance on either – but it is not easy, it takes a lot of effort to undo all the deep conditioning we have as a result of our upbringing in this society… we have been brought up to believe that we must work in the present to taste the fruits of the future, and to hide in the past when the present looks dim, never to just be happy with what you have now. The end result is a world full of people who cannot even be happy about an achievement they have made as they believe they can only be happy once they have reached the ‘finish line’. Look at everyone you see, young and old, poor and rich, and think that they were all once babies, and now they are scared adults who don’t know how to be happy – I’m generalising of course.

    I imagine that when you are faced with death that situation will be the ultimate catalyst for a change in perspective, that’s when you will realise that all of your wealth and material possessions are just ‘things’ that you cannot keep after you die. I read a quote by Terrence Mckenna who said that in his dying days he saw a caterpillar move across a leaf and it brought him to tears.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it is funny to hear how hard people worked to arrive at some level of………whatever they thought they might have achieved. All of “your wealth and material possessions” will come in quite handy when you need them. Be wise and live life what the knowledge that all is fleeting, knowing this, it’s quite easy to save and be wise about the money you will need. “wise” people crack me up.


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  5. I have read the Tiger and the Strawberry parable many times and failed to contemplate its meaning too deeply although I knew it was more than just a very short story. I loved your interpretation of the parable. I find as I get older, I too often live in regret of the past and look too much in longing and sometimes dread of the future. I forget to live in the present and what a waste of time and energy. You made me think and I thank you.


    • I have always taken the parable to mean that when a person comes to the emotional understanding that they will die at some point, they will be more focused on enjoying simple things around them.


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  11. this just showed me, we as youth are wasting our lives. However, how are we suppose to live each day to the fullest if society brings us to the brink of death if not worried about the future tough


  12. Is it not th case that the parable teaches us to accept whatever is happening. Don’t worry about what might happen or has happened. By adopting this philosophy the master was able to enjoy the strawberry even when all else looked hopeless.


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  16. Sorry Andy, I disagree with you, not about your interpretation but rather about the meaning of the story. The true meaning of this story is whatever meaning the reader brings to it. For some, your interpretation is correct to inspire people to action, for others it may bring more to them to focus on being “present” to the now. Whichever lesson people take away from this, it is certain to be valuable


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  18. the story is about the flickering nature of this dangerous material world… and the lengths we will go to to gratify the senses at the peril of our own soul.


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  20. I love such stories and I fascinate at our human need for stories. My sense of the zen as of poetry is of the pointing, the towarding (as I call it). There is no time but the present. I am grateful for all of my fellow humans who ponder the nature of reality.


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