Gordon grew up in the kitchen of his family's restaurant. Eventually he opened his own small country cafe.

Occasionally, one or more of the members of a sexually free commune would eat in Gordon's cafe. Gordon had heard that they sometimes invited outsiders to an orgy. He cultivated a relationship with one of the women from the commune who was interested in Gordon's Zen of Cooking. Eventually she invited him to the commune for a feast.

Gordon, hoping that "feast" was just another name for orgy, accepted the invitation. At the commune, he was disappointed to see that many of the visitors were couples with children. Gordon new then that there would be no orgy so he concentrated on the food.

At the end of the feast, he prepared to leave and thanked his hostess. She asked him if the food had disappointed him. Gordon said that the food was good, but he admitted that he had secretly hoped the feast was an orgy.

His hostess said, "You always talked to me about food. I thought food was what interested you. Come back tomorrow night and I'll teach you the zen of accepting responsibility for what you want and asking for it."

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. "You may have come a long way to visit me, " he told the prowler, "and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift."

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.

Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. "Poor fellow," he mused, "I wish I could give him this beautiful moon."

Nasreddin had a leaky ferry-boat, and used it to row people across the river. One day his passenger was a fussy schoolteacher, and on the way across he decided to give Nasreddin a test and see how much he knew.

"Tell me, Nasreddin, what are eight sixes?"

"I've no idea."

"How do you spell magnificence?"

"I don't."

"Didn't you study anything at school?"


"In that case, half your life is lost."

Just then a fierce storm blew up, and the boat began to sink.

"Tell me, schoolteacher," said Nasreddin. "Did you ever learn to swim?"


"In that case, your whole life is lost."

(Thanks to Ereneta for pointing out the Sufi origins of the Nasreddin tale.)

(Some of the better koans from www.nozen.com, all three of which I have encountered in slightly different forms in the course of my studies of Japanese Buddhism.)