Short Stories by Brian Conroy

Album: The Light That Never Dies. Produced by Alakh Kapadia and Audrey Lin.

An Empty Cup

A mind overflowing with discriminating thoughts is the greatest obstacle to spiritual practice. This well-known Zen parable is part of the Buddhist oral tradition. I first encountered it in Zen Flesh, Zen Bones by Paul Reps.

Easier Said Than Done

A well-known Buddhist anecdote from the 13th century text, The Collection of Sand and Pebbles by Shasekishu. Eighth century Chan Master Taolin, was known as the "Bird Nest Monk." His teaching is easy to comprehend, but far harder to put into practice.

Finding Paradise

Paradise is where you find it. You may already live there! Adapted from a story written by my friend, storyteller and author, Steve Sanfield.

House of Harmony

In the same way that a mantra is recited to develop mindfulness, the protagonist of this story cultivates patience by drawing with his brush the character of patience one hundred times. Adapted from a Chinese folktale.

Extinguishing the Fire

This is a story told in various culture, and mine comes from China. It's image of a tiny living creature working diligently, utilizing her small potential to solve a seemingly insurmountable problem, is a metaphor for the path of cultivation.

Not The Same

Another anecdote from the vast body of stories of the Buddha's teaching.

A Golden Opportunity

This Taoist tale of a man blinded to everything but his greed comes from the Liezi, a 5th century B.C. text, authored by Lie Yukou.

Angulimala's Final Victim

Angulimala is one of the great villains of Buddhist literature. His story can be found in Indian, Chinese and Tibetan sources. This version is adapted from the Angulimala Sutta, a section of the Majjhima Nikaya.

Sometimes a Whisper

This allegory explains why we shout when we are angry. Sometimes attributed to Indian mystic, Meher Baba, there is no evidence he actually told the story. The confusion likely derives from Meher Baba's 44-year vow of silence and his lectures cautioning against harsh speech.

The Man Who Was No Scholar

This story comes from The Panchatantra, a collection of Indian fables dating from 200-300 B.C. The fable makes the distinction between the wisdom of common sense and the limitations -- and potential danger -- of the intellect alone.

The Hermit And The Children

A hermit urges two children to act responsibly. Will they do the right thing? The answer is in their hands. Original source unknown.

Virtue In Action

The majority of Jataka Tales feature animal characters. In each tale, the Buddha -- referred to as the Bodhisattva -- is identified at the end as one of the main characters. In this Jataka, featuring only human characters, the Bodhisattva is reborn as a student whose moral grounding prevents him from breaking the precept against stealing.

A Nature Like Ashes

My teacher, Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, frequently told this story and sometimes paired it with the following verse:
Patience, patience,
Gotta have patience;
Don't get angry,
Suo Pe He.

Falling for You

This delightful little anecdote comes from The Sayings of Layman Pang. Layman Pang lived during the 8th century and was the first person to use the phrase "chop wood, carry water." I have reworded Lingzhao's final phrase to make the ending more accessible.

The Lion's Whisker

This Korean folktale shows how the power of compassion can transform living beings.

Holding Up the Sky

No one person can hold up the sky, but each person must do her part, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. As this Chinese folktale reminds us, even the efforts of a tiny hummingbird can make a difference.

The Light That Never Dies

King Bimbisara was a protector and benefactor of the Buddha who lived during the 5th century B.C. This story is one of many anecdotes ascribed to the Buddha's teaching. The poor woman's offering is present in multiple versions of the tale. The slightly altered ending was inspired by Eknath Easwaran's version, retold in his translation of The Dhammapada.

The Blind Man's Lantern

Each of us possesses a lantern to light our path. Making sure that the candle within the lantern shines brightly requires persistence and mindfulness. Original source unknown.

Skillful Means

As the Dharma Master of this tale shows by his actions, a wise person knows when to follow the path of least resistance. The original source of this story is unknown.

The Deer Park

This story comes from The Jataka tales, a collection of stories dating back to 300-400 B.C. detailing the Buddha's previous incarnations. Each Jataka teaches a principle or virtue. In this story, the Buddha is reborn as a compassionate deer whose example teaches a prince to respect and protect all living things -- the foundation of Buddhist teachings.

A Nun Robs a Thief

Adapted from a tale in Zen Wisdom Stories by Koh Kok Kiang. A kind-hearted nun offers everything she owns to a thief in order to rob him of his desire to steal.

The Laughing Buddha

An original story based on biographical details of the life of 9th century Chinese sage, Putai. Through his lifelong practice of empathetic joy, Putai discovered that the more he gave, the more he had to give.

The Cracked Pot

Another Chinese folktale, this story illustrates how our flaws reveal our uniqueness, and our beauty emerges from our broken parts. As Leonard Cohen sang, "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in."

You Get What You Deserve

There are several variations on this tale in world folklore. In each, selfless deeds get rewarded, and deeds performed with selfish intent reap unintended consequences. This tale comes from China.

The Difference Between Heaven and Hell

In this Chinese folktale, there's a stark contrast between heaven and hell: In hell we serve ourselves; in heaven we serve others.

Singing the Sun Up

This Indian parable is a reminder that each person bears responsibility for making the world a better place, every single day. Not only do the people living in the small village of this story understand this, they practice it, every single day.

Brian: Pay-It-Forward

Brian: Pay-It-Forward


A spirited story, based on real-life events.

In A Kingdom Called Silicon Valley

In A Kingdom Called Silicon Valley


Brian's latest, shared at an Awakin Circle in February 2023.