Last night, walking home through a particularly shady part of Central Square, I was jumped by a Zen master! He waved a knife at me and said, "I will ask you a question. If you give an unsatisfactory answer, I will stab you four times in the chest. If you give a satisfactory answer, I will still stab you four times in the chest. However, if you do not answer, I will slit your throat. Your question is: tree-nature and branch-nature, same or different?"

Not being much of a student of Zen, I was anxious. I decided to answer with a koan-attempt I had come up with in the shower that morning: "In high school I knew a girl who worked in an ice cream store. Every day customers would line up at the counter and she would ask each one the same question: 'Chocolate or vanilla'? I think she must have been a Zen master, because no matter how they answered, she still gave them ice cream."

My allegedly enlightened mugger laughed and said "Good, but you have a lot to learn." Then he beat me up with his Zen stick, took my wallet, and sent me on my way.

If I ever have another interview with this Zen master, perhaps I will simply give him my wallet and avoid the beating.

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