Zen is not. Except when it is.
Zen has its roots, or more appropriately, its leaves, in China—much like the tiny silkworm or the mighty redwood. Both have a Buddha-nature and yet you deny yours. Why do you do this? It is not because you are a jerk. No, it is because you fear the unity more than you fear the disunity. But, do not be afraid! It is the nature of Zen that you should learn not to fear such trivial things, as well as how to stare at rocks. Zen brings much good and light into being, it is the one true quality of life that cannot be bottled, for it is not a liquid, but rather a shape that depends not on it's container, but a shape beyond all boundaries and in the open fields and the closed highways there is something looking out for titles and glorious ecstasy, and that is not zen, it is Fludge.
If you do not want to put up with monks and aren't enough of an insomniac to order the late night infomercial tapes, you can teach yourself Zen using one of a few simple techniques. If you want to take the traditional approach, climb a mountain, find a cave, and stare at the wall for seven years. If, however, you are unable to commit that much time to the matter, you can use the more modern technique of solving Koans. It has been rumored that some drugs can teach you Zen but that's only if you believe the dirty hippies that say so. Additionally, the Scientologists claim to be able to teach Zen for a price, but that's obviously a scam.
Koans are public documents that have only one answer that is correct for the student in his current state of understanding. They cannot be solved by any academic or rational process, and when a koan is solved there is no sense of achievement. Contrary to popular belief, both alchemy and calculus were invented as a means of distracting the mind from the attempt to solve Zen Koans. Additional commentary has been provided to help you towards a solution by distracting you from the illusion of affirmation and negation. The solutions to the more difficult koans are usually non verbal. "Forty-two" is the answer to "How many laws has the game of Cricket?", and is no longer amusing or clever (if it ever was). Koans should not be confused with The Koran, though the two are very similar. It is theorized that at one point, Koans and the Koran were all one giant book, but this was refuted by scientists, claiming that even with the largest conventional page size and the smallest font, such a book would tower to a whopping five thousand feet tall.
- (Note: The one & only right answer ever given to a Koan is 'Yu No Hu!' See: You Know Who.)
The Web User
A web user sent an HTTP 1.1 request to the Great Encyclopedia seeking the truth about Zen. The Great Encyclopedia replied, "404 Enlightenment Not Found Error". Confused, the web user tried again, sending a second HTTP request. The Great Encyclopedia replied "203 Non-authoritative Information Error". Again, the user tried; however, lightning struck nearby and the computer lost power. The web user was enlightened.
- Commentary: Is the internet big or what?
What is Buddha-Nature?
The Buddha is very tired of answering this one. It's not such a big deal. Besides, there are plenty of books. No, he won't recommend a few.
- Commentary: Don't type. Just write the words. That's all.
The Buddha Nature
Thus said the master: "If you should see Buddha on the road, kill him." The pupil returned to his hut, and meditated long and hard on the inner meaning of this, and eventually received the bliss of enlightenment as he experienced the Buddha Nature. Enjoyed, he left his hut and walked down the road to tell his master. Whereupon someone saw him, and killed him.
- Commentary: Shit happens.
The Legend of Neo
A student asked his master "What is Zen?" The master replied "You are Neo; You are the Chosen One."
- Commentary: Hollywood doesn't get Zen, but Zen does not give a shit.
The Zen Master's Lunch
A Zen Master walked up to a hot dog stand and said, "Make me one with everything." The vendor complied, adding a bit of every ingredient available at his stall to the hot dog. The Zen Master was pleased, however he noticed the vendor had neglected to give him back his money, as the Zen Master had paid with a large bill. Upon inquiry into the matter, the vendor replied, "Don't you know, change must come from yourself and within."
- Commentary: Stay away from the sauerkraut; it has gone bad.
The Zen Master's Injury
A Zen Master once hurt himself. "Ouch," he said.
- Commentary: Zen makes no sense. Sense, however, does make Zen.
The Zen Master's Takeaway
The master asked his disciples: "You are running a pizza takeaway. A Buddhist comes in and makes a tired old joke by asking you to "Make me one with everything". What is your response?"
A week later the master summoned his disciples and asked the question again. They had various answers, but none of them satisfied the master. Then a disciple stepped forward and handed over an inside-out pizza box with a pizza on top.
The master then hit the disciple with his hossu.
- Commentary: It's the disciple who is supposed to be the straight man. There is no statue to Ernie Wise.
The Ox and the Ox-keeper
The ox and the ox-keeper (mind and will) are at first inseparable. Through meditation, the ox is freed to wander as it pleases, but it only wishes to wander where the ox-keeper desires it to wander. Unfortunately, the ox-keeper dies of plague and is reincarnated as his own ox, leaving himself without a keeper.
Buddha and the Tortoise
Buddha and a tortoise race each other. The tortoise gets an early lead because Buddha is baffled by the fact that sweatsocks don't sweat. Confused, Buddha starts running in the opposite direction from the tortoise. Then the tortoise is struck by a truck and killed.
- Commentary: How can Achilles win a race when he has been dead for a thousand years? How can the Buddha be confused when he is beyond illusion? How do I find the time to write this garbage?
Dichotomy of the Buddha-Nature
There are two sides to your Buddha-nature—one which always lies and one which always tells the truth—how can you ask yourself where you left your car keys?
- Commentary: How can you start your car without your keys?
Dichotomy of the Buddha-Nature II
There are no sides to the Buddha-nature and no "you" for it to be yours.
- Commentary: Just hot wire the bloody car and get on with it.
Understanding through misunderstanding
A renowned Zen Monk once descended his place of meditation using a fixed-gear bicycle. The way was downhill, all the way. When suddenly a young boy appeared in his trajected pathway, the Zen Monk braked the bicycle with all his might and managed to stop just literally a few centimeters of hitting the boy. "What is wrong with you boy!" the Zen Monk cried out desperately. The boy thought about it for a while and then decided on "Nothing"! The Zen Monk was deeply enlightened.
- Commentary: Kids are fucking stupid.
The Old Man and the Pebble
Once there lived a wise old monk at the monastery
of Shangri-La. Old age had robbed him of his eyesight, but otherwise he was still pretty up to speed. Whenever a new pupil arrived at the monastery seeking wisdom, he'd always make them go through a little test: they were to snatch a pebble from the palm of his hand before he could close his fist around it. Needless to say, he always was quicker than the overconfident youngsters, thus deflating their egos by several points; which was the purpose of the whole procedure. One day, a little boy from the Village of the Five Silver Moon Trees near the Cliff of Returning Spring pulled a fast one though: instead of making a snatch for the pebble, he picked up another pebble from the path and dropped it into the old man's palm. Then he said with respect: "Master, I know you can see although you cannot see. I know I am blind although I am not blind. Will you please teach me?" Great joy struck the old man, and those close to him. In the turning of time, the little boy became a wise old Master himself. Yet, his legend was born that day and he will always be remembered by the name given to him on that very first day in the Shangri-La monastery by the blind old monk: "Perhaps it is I who must learn and you who must teach...Small Locust".
- Commentary: Knocking kid's egos down a few pegs is a wonderful pastime.
How many Zen monks does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: None. The master can point the way, but the light bulb must find the roots of change within itself.
- Commentary: Zen monks are enlightened beyond affirmation and negation. It takes an unenlightened person to need to replace a light bulb.
A Boy and His Dog
A boy and his dog were tip-toeing through the tulips, when all at once the boy noticed a Zen Master meditating underneath a Great Yanda tree. Curious, he drew nearer, and was impressed by the Masters composure. Not being of the shy variety, the boy spoke out loud: "Master, will you teach me Zen" ?
The Zen Master thought about this a while (or maybe he was just annoyed at being disturbed while meditating and counting slowly to ten within his inner self) and then said: "Unbark your dog". The dog however, was not barking.
The boy was not enlightened. Still, being a boy, he nodded wisely and then continued on his way.
Some time later, the same boy and his same dog were frolicking in the fields, when suddenly they came upon the same Zen Master, only this time the Master had chosen to medidate underneath a wild Baobab tree. Remembering their earlier encounter and its unsatisfactory outcome, the boy boldly said "Master, here and now, please show me something of Zen". The Zen Master composed his thoughts for a moment and then said: "Unbark your dog".
The boy was still not enlightened. The dog was not barking, so what was the old geezer complaining about? Just for good measure, he made some rude noises in the general direction of not himself and then continued on his way.
Some time passed by.
Then, the boy and his dog were sent by the boy's mother on an errand to go and visit the boy's grandmother and enquire as to her well-being. Needless to say, a basket of delicious goodies was to be transported from A to B. The grandmother lived in a small house some way up in the foothills of the Wall of the Gods. The path was not exactly straight, and rounding another hair-pin bend the boy found himself face to face with ... the Zen Master, who was meditating within the shelter of a cave that had been hacked out of the hillside.
"Master!" exclaimed the boy, in joyful surprise, "Will you now finally teach me something of Zen ?"
Perceiving that the boy was now ready for instruction, the Zen Master agreed to give a demonstration of Zen provided that the boy would let him meditate in peace for the rest of this koan. The boy was delighted and agreed immediately.
For the third time, the Zen Master said: "Unbark your dog". The boy, still not enlightened, objected that the dog was not barking at that particular moment.
The Zen Master then addressed the dog directly: "Let us see how well you have been trained." The dog wagged its tail in enthusiasm. The Zen Master then liberated a delicious shrimp-and-rice cookie from the basket of goodies. He showed this treasure to the dog, saying: "Who wants a delicious rice-and-shrimp cookie then, eh? Sit!"
The dog, being unenlightened in Zen and subject to the secular round of Maya, suffered the illusion of uncontrollable desire and started barking.
At this point, the Zen Master kicked the dog swiftly in the balls and said: "Shut up, dog! You are disturbing me!" The dog yelped, then ran away. The Zen Master ate the cookie.
Finally the boy was enlightened.
- Commentary : A dog has to be barked before it can be unbarked.
The Great Science
You in your sandbox, dividing grains of sand into smaller grains of sand until they disappear.
- Commentary : Science is all about grains of sand.
The Art of Zen Fishing
There is also to consider the phenomenon of "Zen fishing", which has taken off on a large scale in the Netherlands - of all places. In its most enlightened state, Zen fishing is the act of fishing without the intent of ever actually catching a fish, or harming any other living creature in the process. And if you manage to cast a little enlightenment on your way there, hey, we can use all the help we can get.
Zen fishing may be gradually accomplished by the novice through starting off with ordinary fishing, then consecutively leaving out all the worldly attributes normally used in this endeavour: first the worm as bait (a worm has feelings too), then the hook (a fish might hurt itself when swimming unadvertedly against your unbaited hook), then the line (fish might accidentally tie themselves up - or have other fish tie them up on purpose!), then the rod (a rod held over a body of water might scare the fish away), then the stream or lake you are fishing in (if there is no water, there is no fish. If there is no fish, there is no possibility of catching), and finally, the fisherman (or -woman) self (where there is no fish hunter, there is no fish prey).
What is left is pure essence of the fish catching art. When you attain this, you attain humble perfectness. May Buddha enlighten your path.
The Zen Arcade
According to Chinese lore and legends, the Zen Arcade has been built by a wise Cambodian monk named Hus Ker Duc. It was a mighty machine that helped people reach enlightenment by playing an arcade - most probably of flipper kind. This legend has been referenced in several Eastern contemporary tales, i.e. the opera-rock Tommy, by British rock band The Who. The original form of the Zen Arcade is unknown, for digital photography machines were very rare in Cambodia in the 15th century - they only reached the country in large scale by the late 19th century. However, contemporary illustrations show some kind of a giant flipperama made out of bamboo and strings, with a pebble in place of the silver ball. The machine also played music while it was played, and is considered the original concept behind the world famous Wurlitzer jukebox.