A rich man asked a Zen master to write something down that could encourage the prosperity of his family for years to come. It would be something that the family could cherish for generations. On a large piece of paper, the master wrote, "Father dies, son dies, grandson dies."
The rich man became angry when he saw the master's work. "I asked you to write something down that could bring happiness and prosperity to my family. Why do you give me something depressing like this?"
"If your son should die before you," the master answered, "this would bring unbearable grief to your family. If your grandson should die before your son, this also would bring great sorrow. If your family, generation after generation, disappears in the order I have described, it will be the natural course of life. This is true happiness and prosperity."
People's reactions to this story:
"The man should be happy because he has his life. The greatest prosperity in life is not any material thing, but life itself."
"True prosperity in life is to avoid tragedy - and to have your child die before you is probably the greatest tragedy."
"A close friend of the family had a one year old baby who died. It destroyed the family. I can see myself telling this story to my children someday."
"This story makes me think of my Mom because she always tells me that the worst thing that could happen to her would be me or my brother dying before her."
"The simplest things that we often take for granted are the things that can bring us the greatest happiness."
"We often take life for granted, especially how true happiness is being able to live our lives fully, then die naturally, without having to experience tragedy."
"This story makes me realize how backwards our society is about money."
"I'd like to tell this story to my boyfriend. He's always working so hard for prosperity that he loses sight of the fact that life itself is happiness."
"The rich man was so used to having his wealth on paper he felt compelled to have in writing some proof or form of unity."
"This story seems to follow the traditional pattern of oriental ancestor worship. The greatest honor is in the passing down of family traditions from one generation to the next."
"Don't be too greedy. Be here now."
"We shouldn't expect too much out of life. If you do, you wind up getting disappointed and unhappy."
"I don't feel that people dying is any kind of happiness or prosperity, regardless of the order. My grandfather died a year ago and it didn't bring me any happiness whatsoever."
"My father died when I was five. I don't think I have ever been happy about that."
"I don't get this story. If someone dies, it's going to bring unhappiness - period."
"In reality we don't know who is going to die when. In a way, I think that is good and helps us to live life more fully, and without worry."
"We humans are used to life following a certain order. It seems natural to us. But when that order is disrupted, we become very disoriented and unhappy."