Asked to describe Zen training, Wuzu Fayan used this analogy: “It is like learning the art of burglary. There was a young boy who was the son of a very successful burglar, but he noticed that his father was getting older and wasn’t as spry as he’d once been. This worried the boy. ‘What will our family do when my father isn’t able to pursue his craft any longer?’ he wondered. ‘How will we avoid poverty and starvation?’ After dwelling on this for some time, the boy made up his mind to ask his father to teach him the family trade.
“The father was pleased that his son had taken this initiative, and, that evening, he took the boy with him. They came to a large house occupied by a wealthy family, and the father showed the son how to break through the fence and enter the house without being heard. Then he brought him into one of the bedrooms, where the family was sleeping. He indicated the large chests where clothes for various seasons were stored. ‘Go over to that chest and gather its contents for us to take.’ But when the son bent over the chest, his father pushed him into it, closed the lid, and latched it. The father then crept out of the room and, once safely outside, shouted as loud as he could: ‘Thieves! Thieves!’
“His cries woke the household. The family could see that the house had been broken into, but it appeared that the burglar had escaped.
“The boy in the chest was very angry about what his father had done to him. As he thought about how to escape, it occurred to him to make a sound like a mouse caught in the chest. The household servant, holding a lantern, went over to the chest to investigate the noise. As soon as she lifted the lid, the boy jumped out, blew out the lantern, pushed the startled woman aside, then rushed through a window.
“As he ran away, the members of the household chased after him. He could hear them gaining on him as he passed an old well. Looking about, he found a large stone which he threw into the well making a loud splash. He left one of his sandals by the well and continued on his way. The household members gathered around the well and peered into it but couldn’t see anything. Deciding that the burglar must have drowned, they went back home.
“The boy came to his own house, still very angry with his father. But his father told him to calm himself and describe what had happened. When the boy completed his tale, the father embraced him and said, ‘Well done! You’ve learned the art.’”
[Wuzu Fayan – Zen Masters of China: 287-92]