"When understood, the Buddha’s universe..is anything but alien and inhibiting. It is a world full of hope, where everything we need to do can be done and everything that matters is within human reach. It is a world where kindness, unselfishness, non-violence, and compassion achieve what self-interest and arrogance cannot. It is a world where any human can be happy in goodness and the fullness of giving." ❦ Eknath Easwara

October 24, 2011

An Enlightenment Koan — Maybe You're There Already

There once were two monks who lived in a woods.  One was committed to sitting under a particular tree forever until he achieved enlightenment.  He sat there under the tree eating only the bugs and spiders and lizards that happened to wander close enough.  He drank only the water that fell when it rained.  There were cob-webs hanging off of him and he was dirty and smelly and not a pleasant, aesthetic experience.

There was a second monk who lived in that same woods, who traveled around the woods and had a lot of fun, who occasionally went into town and got himself in a little bit of difficulty now and then—he did have a weakness for the rice wine.

As chance would have it, a messenger of Brahma happened to be passing through.  Now the tradition was that, if you recognized the messenger of Brahma, you got to ask the messenger a question.  The old man under the tree recognized the messenger, and he said, “Hah there.  I see you, messenger of Brahma.  I claim the answer to my question.”

The messenger said, “Oh, all right.  What's your question?”

“How many more life-times must I sit under this tree, meditating, before I experience enlightenment?”

“Well,” said the messenger, “I'll go ask Brahma and come back when I'm next this way and give you the answer.”

Overhearing this, the second monk said, “Hey, I'd kind of like the answer to that, too.  That'd be interesting to know.”

Years passed.  As chance would have it, the messenger again came back through and the old man recognized him.  The old man said, “Hah, I recognize you, messenger.  Have you brought my answer from Brahma.”

The messenger says, “Yes, Brahma says you've got four more lifetimes before you finally achieve enlightenment.”  The old man under the tree said, “Ah, dung.  Four more lifetimes of sitting under this damn tree, amongst the spiders and the lizards and the muck and the rain.  Yuck!  Phew!”

The second monk said, “How about me?”

The messenger said, “Brahma said you have ten thousand more lifetimes before you finally 'get it.'”

The monk said, “Ten thousand more lifetimes?  Incredible!  Ten thousand more lifetimes enjoying this incredible world we live in?  Enjoying these woods, enjoying being alive!”

The messenger said, “No, no, you're there already.”

As related be Mike Young

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