A priest was in charge of the garden within a famous Zen temple. He had been given the job because he loved the flowers, shrubs, and trees. Next to the temple there was another, smaller temple where there lived a very old Zen master.
One day, the priest was expecting some special guests, and so he took extra care in tending to the garden. He removed all the weeds, trimmed all the shrubs, combed the moss, and spent a long time carefully raking up and arranging all the dry autumn leaves. As he worked, the old master watched him with interest from across the wall that separated the temples.
When he had finished, the priest stood back to admire his work. “Isn’t it beautiful?” he called out to the old master.
“Yes” replied the old man, “but there is something missing. Help me over this wall and I’ll put it right for you”.
After hesitating, the priest lifted the old man over and set him down. Slowly, the master walked to the tree near the centre of the garden, grabbed it by the trunk, and shook it. Some leaves fell down. “There”, he said, “you can put me back now”.