Hui Neng asked Hui Ming, “Without thinking of good or evil, show me your original face before your mother and father were born”
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.”
Once there was a well known philosopher and scholar who devoted himself to the study of Zen for many years. On the day that he finally attained enlightenment, he took all of his books out into the yard, and burned them all.
Approaching the gates of the monastery, Hakuin found Ken the Zen
preaching to a group of disciples.
“Words…” Ken orated, “they are but an illusory veil obfuscating
the absolute reality of –”
“Ken!” Hakuin interrupted. “Your fly is down!”
Whereupon the Clear Light of Illumination exploded upon Ken, and he
On the way to town, Hakuin was greeted by an itinerant monk imbued
with the spirit of the morning.
“Ah,” the monk sighed, a beatific smile wrinkling across his cheeks,
“Thou art That…”
“Ah,” Hakuin replied, pointing excitedly, “And Thou art Fat!”
Whereupon the Clear Light of Illumination exploded upon the monk,
and he vaporized.
Next, the Governor sought the advice of Hakuin, crying: “As our
enemies bear down upon us, how shall I, with such heartless and callow
soldiers as I am heir to, hope to withstand the impending onslaught?”
“US?” snapped Hakuin.
Whereupon the Clear Light of Illumination exploded upon the
Governor, and he vaporized.
Then, a redneck went up to Hakuin and vaporized the old Master with
his shotgun. “Ha! Beat ya’ to the punchline, ya’ scrawny li’l geek!”
Yamaoka Tesshu was a tutor of the emperor in Japan. He was also a master of fencing and a profound student of Zen.
His home was the abode of vagaonds. He had but one suit of clothes, for they kept him always poor.
The emperor, observing how worn his garments were, gave Yamaoka some money to buy new ones. The next time Yamaoka appeared he wore the same old outfit.
“What has became of the new clothes, Yamaoka?” asked the emperor.
“I provided clothes for the children of Your Majesty”, explainded Yamaoka.
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings
compiled by Paul Reps, Arkana 1991