What is Zen?

Roshi Kapleau agreed to educate a group of psychoanalysts about Zen. After being introduced to the group by the director of the analytic institute, the Roshi quietly sat down upon a cushion placed on the floor. A student entered, prostrated before the master, and then seated himself on another cushion a few feet away, facing his teacher. “What is Zen?” the student asked. The Roshi produced a banana, peeled it, and started eating. “Is that all? Can’t you show me anything else?” the student said. “Come closer, please,” the master replied. The student moved in and the Roshi waved the remaining portion of the banana before the student’s face. The student prostrated, and left.
A second student rose to address the audience. “Do you all understand?” When there was no response, the student added, “You have just witnessed a first-rate demonstration of Zen. Are there any questions?”

After a long silence, someone spoke up. “Roshi, I am not satisfied with your demonstration. You have shown us something that I am not sure I understand. It must be possible to TELL us what Zen is.”

“If you must insist on words,” the Roshi replied, “then Zen is an elephant copulating with a flea.”