From the website Zen Stories to tell your neighbours, this was the story I submitted for inclusion in a DEFRA publication on Knowledge Management many years ago. With a puzzled look it was unanimously rejected but I still think its a great story…
A priest was in charge of the garden within a famous Zen temple. He had been given the job because he loved the flowers, shrubs, and trees.
Next to the temple there was another, smaller temple where there lived a very old Zen master.
One day, when the priest was expecting some special guests, he took extra care in tending to the garden. He pulled the weeds, trimmed the shrubs, combed the moss, and spent a long time meticulously raking up and carefully arranging all the dry autumn leaves. As he worked, the old master watched him with interest from across the wall that separated the temples.
When he had finished, the priest stood back to admire his work. “Isn’t it beautiful,” he called out to the old master. “Yes,” replied the old man, “but there is something missing. Help me over this wall and I’ll put it right for you.”
After hesitating, the priest lifted the old fellow over and set him down. Slowly, the master walked to the tree near the centre of the garden, grabbed it by the trunk, and shook it. Leaves showered down all over the garden. “There,” said the old man, “you can put me back now.”