Since the time immemorial, Zen stories have been used as an effective tool for meditation. In the Zen tradition, the stories, which are often referred as Koan, have been a fundamental part of the Zen meditation. Even in the present time, people love to use these stories to deepen their knowledge of meditation. At a cursory glance, these stories appear just like any other story having a central character, various sub-characters, a plot and sub-plots. However, when read carefully, often in a second or third reading, their real meaning start to resurface. Majority of zen stories are akin to a riddle, a hidden message. Seldom or never you will find a straight forward moral message in these stories.
The riddle quality is an intentional part of zen story telling. Right from the very beginning, the Zen stories were not meant to be simple stories. They have an intentional enigmatic constructions to start with and in most of the cases, end with an open or loose string. This fact makes them open to a variety of interpretations. In an attempt to explore their final conclusion, the seekers get inspired to discuss at length their real meaning. Often the real meaning also changes with person to person. The meaning of a zen story which a person, with good background of meditation, perceives may be entirely different from the perception of a lay man.
Despite their somewhat strange message, Zen stories fully serve their actual purpose of enhancing the knowledge of the seeker in what is known as 'truth' in spiritual world. They all point out to some eternal wisdom. They have been intentionally developed as a piece to ponder over, to stimulate the mind and to illuminate the soul. They act as perfect tool for meditation. It has been seen in many school of Zen meditation that often the major part of meditation practice involve deep contemplations over the these stories.
Apart from helping the seeker in revealing the hidden wisdom in them, the Zen stories also serve as a tool for moral and ethical conduct. Revolving around, the Japanese society of ancient era, they also contain the timeless and often poignant message of humanity. These stories are considered timeless because of their evergreen appeal to both the seekers as well as common men They inspire the contemplator to go inward and find the truth.
As a meditation practice, they help in calming the mind and improving focus on inward consciousness. A long practice of contemplating over Zen stories has the potential of making the seeker a highly progressive and efficient meditator. Although a complete reliance on zen stories for learning meditation is not recommended, a conscious inclusion of them along with other meditation practices has been found extremely beneficial.