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Good Luck Bad Luck Zen Proverb

One day in late summer, a farmer was working in his field with his old sick horse. The farmer felt compassion for the horse and desired to lift its burden. So he let his horse loose to go the mountains and live out the rest of its life.

Soon after, neighbors from the nearby village visited, offering their condolences and said, “What a shame. Now your only horse is gone. How unfortunate you are! You must be very sad. How will you live, work the land, and prosper?” The farmer replied: “Who could say? We shall see.”

Two days later the old horse came back rejuvenated after meandering in the mountainside while eating the wild grasses. Returning with him were twelve new and healthy horses which followed the old horse into the corral.

Word got out in the village of the farmer’s good fortune and it wasn’t long before people stopped by to congratulate him on his good luck. “How fortunate you are!” they exclaimed. You must be very happy!” The farmer softly said, “Who could say? We shall see.”

At daybreak on the next morning, the farmer’s only son set off to attempt to train the new wild horses, but the farmer’s son was thrown to the ground and broke his leg. One by one the villagers arrived to bemoan the farmer’s latest misfortune. “Oh, what a tragedy you have had! Your son won’t be able to help you farm with a broken leg. You’ll have to do all the work yourself. How will you survive? You must be very sad,” they said. Calmly going about his usual business the farmer answered, “Who could say? We shall see.”

Several days later a war broke out. The Emperor’s men arrived in the village demanding that young men come with them to be conscripted into the Emperor’s army. As it happened the farmer’s son was deemed unfit because of his broken leg. “What very good fortune you have!!” the villagers exclaimed as their own young sons were marched away. “You must be very happy.” “Who could say? We shall see.” replied the farmer as he headed off to work his field alone.

As time went on the broken leg healed but the son was left with a slight limp. Again the neighbors came to pay their condolences. “Oh what bad luck you have; too bad for you!” But the farmer replied simply, “Who could say? We shall see.”

As it turned out the other young village boys died in the war and the farmer and his son were the only able bodied men capable of working the village lands. The farmer became wealthy and was very generous to the villagers. They said: “Oh how fortunate we are; you must be very happy” to which the farmer softly calmly said, “Who could say? We shall see.”

I love this Zen proverb. It really puts things into perspective when it comes to what we might consider good luck or bad luck.

Next time something happens to you that seems unfortunate, try taking a new perspective on the situation.

Take time to meditate on this proverb or journal about it.


There are times that good things fall apart so better things can come together.

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