Brain Teasers Optical Illusions Puzzle Hunts Codes & Ciphers Mechanical Puzzles
Personal Links
Browse Teasers
Search Teasers

The Student and the Zen Master

Situation puzzles (sometimes called lateral thinking puzzles) are ones where you need to ask lots of yes or no questions to figure out what happened in the situation. These are good puzzles for groups where one person knows the puzzle and answers the questions.


Puzzle ID:#28183
Fun:*** (3)
Difficulty:*** (2.44)
Submitted By:zonahoboAus****
Corrected By:norcekri




A new student met the Zen Master after traveling hundreds of miles by yak cart. He was understandably pleased with himself for being selected to learn at the great master's feet .

The first time they formally met, the Zen Master asked, "May I ask you a simple question?"
"It would be an honor!" replied the student.

"Which is greater, that which has no beginning or that which has no end?" queried the Zen Master. "Come back when you have the answer and can explain why."

After the student made many frustrated trips back with answers which the master quickly cast off with a disapproving negative nod, the Zen Master finally said, "Perhaps I should ask you another question?"

"Oh, please do!" pleaded the exasperated student.

The Zen Master then asked, "Since you do not know that, answer this much simpler riddle. When can a pebble hold back the sea?"

Again the student was rebuffed time and again. Several more questions followed with the same result. Each time, the student could not find the correct answer. Finally, completely exasperated, the student began to weep, "Master, I am a complete idiot. I can not solve even the simplest riddle from you!"

Suddenly, the student stopped, sat down, and said, "I am ready for my second lesson."

What was the Zen Master's first lesson?

What Next?


See another brain teaser just like this one...

Or, just get a random brain teaser

If you become a registered user you can vote on this brain teaser, keep track of
which ones you have seen, and even make your own.



Jan 21, 2006

I loved this teaser (even if I was waaaay off from the answer)! Going to my Faves List
Jan 21, 2006

A lovely moral story (and riddle).
Jan 21, 2006

i really rather liked this one
Jan 21, 2006

That was very cool.
Jan 21, 2006

I loved it! keep the Zen master teasers coming!
Jan 21, 2006

Good Teaser, enjoyed it, fun as well
Jan 21, 2006

ZonaZenMasterHobo - I shall always be your student. These are absolutely zany zoned insights
Jan 21, 2006

Very good ZonaZen!! A lesson and a great teaser all in one!! I enjoyed this very much!
Jan 25, 2006

Really good teaser zona!
Jan 27, 2006

It is not how one comes in, but how one goes out. And when it is one with many, grasshopper.
Feb 08, 2006

Really liked this one. Very nice!
Mar 24, 2006

I liked this teaser. Makes one think more deeply, and in a different way....
May 25, 2006

Good teaser! I thought he was trying to teach him humility, but that seems a bit obvious. Nice twist!
May 26, 2006

If I may be allowed to try and interpret the Zen Master's question about the pebble stopping the sea...

An insignificant problem in our life can be like a pebble. Perhaps we can interpret the sea as something that is akin to our whole life, such as all our experiences washing over us. If we hold the pebble too close to our eye, it will fill our whole world and put everything out of perspective; consequently stopping the sea (or our rich experience of lifes pleasures)!

If we move the pebble away from us at a proper distance, it can be examined and properly classified, whilst at the same time we can still see the ocean. If we throw the pebble down at our feet in front of the waves, we can see it in its true perspective: just another tiny bump on our pathway of life.

Just feeling a touch philosophical...
May 29, 2006

ha ha ha go ask a zen master
Oct 12, 2006

That was fantastic! Please keep up with these zen master teasers! And I really enjoyed jazzmusician's interpretation of the pebble problem! This entire Braingle community is just so AWESOME!!!!
Dec 04, 2006

ditto perrygf
Jan 06, 2007


Shouldve thought of that =( =)
Jan 26, 2007

I didn't get the riddle, but the questions within the riddle are fairly simple.

That which has no end is better because that which has no beginning does not exist

A pebble can hold back the sea when it is the last one in a wall.
Feb 22, 2007

The question was "when" can a pebble hold back the sea and not "how". An answer might be a pebble can hold back the sea at low tide!
Jan 28, 2014

God has no beginning and no end. So, that question has no answer. I think the best response would be to teach the student humility, or that some questions have no clear-cut answer.
Jan 28, 2014

deepsea: "...that which has no beginning does not exist."
rlclarke: "God has no beginning and no end."

Yes! The atheists are right!

(just kidding... not wanting to start a religious debate here!)
Aug 17, 2014

Hi everyone, I am new to this group, and I certainly don't want to step on any toes or cross any boundaries...but, please consider this:
Q1) "Which is greater, that which has no beginning or that which has no end?"
A1) That which is has "no beginning" has "no end". And that which has "no end" has "no beginning". Thus, one is "no greater" nor "no less" than the other.

Q2) "When can a pebble hold back the sea?"
A1) When the pebble becomes "equal to" the sea.

Q3) What was the Zen Master's first lesson?
A3) First, let me say that it is "the student" who feels that he's learned "the first lesson", NOT the Master. The student's sudden "awareness" of his "ignorance" is only 1 of many "Enlightened Moments" / "Realizations" / "Aha Moments" that one will experience on his journey to...let's say, "Awaken-ness". Again, these may feel like individual lessons, but to the Master, they're all One Lesson.
In closing, please understand that the questions of the Master is to set the student(s) on a path or journey that will eventually lead them to "Enlightenment".
Thank you for reading and please forgive me if I inadvertently crossed this community's boundaries and/or policies.

Back to Top

Online Now
8 users and 539 guests

Users In Chat
Follow Braingle!
Tap into all 20,000+ of our brain teasers, riddles and puzzles on your iPhone or iPad.
Braingle in the iTunes App Store
Copyright © 1999-2017 | FAQ | Widgets | Links | Green | Subscribe | Contact | Privacy | Conditions | Advertise | Braingle Time: 2:18 am
Sign In Create a free account