Equal footing

footprint in sand

Here’s one of my favorite Zen stories. No idea where I read/heard this.

There was a prince in India who heard about the Buddha and decided to become his student. Though he wasn’t used to difficulties of any kind, he gamely did his best to do what all the other followers did, putting himself on an equal footing with them.

This prince had been so spoiled, he had never had to do anything for himself – even walk. From lack of use, the soles of his feet grew fine, golden hairs. And even though he was in agony, he still did kinhin (walking meditation) every day.

One day the Buddha walked by and saw him limping back and forth. As the prince walked, he left bloody footprints on the ground from his delicate, unused feet.

“Hey,” Buddha said. “Knock it off. You don’t have to kill yourself over this. Trying too hard is just as bad as not trying hard enough.”


Here’s another version that I just found:

A monk named Sona in the Sitavana Monastery at Rajagriha was so zealous in walking that his feet left a bloody trail. The Buddha asked him if his lute could be played well if the strings were too tight or too loose. Just so, excessive zeal may make the mind weary and one’s thoughts irritable and uncertain. He suggested to Sona that gradual progress led to self-mastery and happiness rather than anxiety.


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