Thursday, November 05, 2009

"Where Are You Going?"

Zen teachers train their young pupils to express themselves. Two Zen temples each had a child protégé. One child, going to obtain vegetables each morning, would meet the other on the way.

"Where are you going?" asked the one.

"I am going wherever my feet go," the other responded.

This reply puzzled the first child who went to his teacher for help. "Tomorrow morning," the teacher told him, "when you meet that little fellow, ask him the same question. He will give you the same answer, and then you ask him: 'Suppose you have no feet, then where are you going?' That will fix him."

The children met again the following morning.

"Where are you going?" asked the first child.

"I am going wherever the wind blows," answered the other.

This again nonplussed the youngster, who took his defeat to the teacher.

"Ask him where he is going if there is no wind," suggested the teacher.

The next day the children met a third time.

"Where are you going?" asked the first child.

"I am going to the market to buy vegetables," the other replied.

(Zen Dialog, excerpted from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones)

3 comments:

Manveen Anand said...

very nicely done!

Cedric said...

I had meant to write earlier but forgot. I only wanted to say that your story reminds me of something Lao Tzu once said about living close to the ground so as to stay balanced and it is something that I remind myself of whenever thoughts of seeking loaftier ideals arise. While seeking awakening or desiring to return "home" exists at some level it is worth remembering that we have come from our "home" so that we may experience life. I think Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita told humans to be like the banyan tree with its roots in the heavens and its branches reaching down towards earth. While this may seem counter intuitive I am beginning to suspect that we may well be here on earth to go wherever the wind or our feet take us but we are also here to pick up vegetables from the market.

Thanks for the reminder Andy.

trace said...

As Joe Campbell would say, the difference of inflection between "denotation" and "connotation" is purely a literary problem. Zen is all in how the question is put.