A classic Zen story about their fearlessness is the tale of a young man who applied to a fencing master to be his student. The master looked at him and said, “Who did you study with before?”

He said, “I’ve never studied fencing before.”

The master looked at him in a funny way and said, “No, surely, come now, you have studied with someone.”

He said, “No sir, I never have studied.” “Well,” the master said, “I’m an experienced teacher, and I can tell at once by looking at a person whether he has studied fencing or not. And I know you have!”

But the young man shook his head and said, “Sir, I assure you, I’ve never studied fencing at all with anybody.”

“Well,” said the master, “there must be something peculiar about you — what do you suppose it could be?”

“Well,” the young man said, “when I was a boy, I was very worried about dying. So I thought a great deal about death. And then I came to the realization that there’s nothing in death to be afraid of.”

“Oh,” said the master, “that explains it.”



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