Of Zen and coin flips

One day a great Japanese warrior named Nobunaga decided to attack an enemy outpost, even though he had only one-tenth the number of soldiers the opposition commanded.

He knew that he’d win. But his troops had their doubts.

On the way to the battlefield he stopped at a Shinto shrine and said to his men:

“After I visit this shrine I’ll toss a coin. If it’s heads – we’ll win. If it’s tails we lose. Destiny holds us in her hand”.

So, Nobunaga entered the shrine and offered a silent prayer to the powers that be. He then headed back out to where everyone was and flipped a coin.

A tense moment fell among his soldiers.

Their lives were hanging in the balance of a simple coin.

Heads.

Everyone was relieved, and also energised. His soldiers were so eager to fight that they won their battle with relative ease.

A little while later, after everyone had finished celebrating, one of Nobunaga’s assistants approached him cautiously.

“No one can change the hand of destiny,” he said.

“Indeed not” replied Nobunaga.

Then he shows his attendant the coin that he used.

It was double-sided. Heads either way.

So, there we go – whether it comes from faking it or not – a little bit of self belief can go a long way.


(adapted from ‘The World of ZEN” by Nancy Wilson Ross)