There was once a young monk who ran across his master on a meditative walk. As he approached trying to be respectful and quiet, he saw the master spit on a statue of the Buddha. Seeing the student’s alarm, the master turned to him and said, “it is only a statue,” and walked on.
A week later, they met again on the same trail. This time, the master was bowing down in front of the same statue. Upon standing, he saw the monk’s confused look, and said, “Some see a statue, others see the Buddha.” The monk walked on.
A week later, the monk discovered his master early in the morning along the trail huddled by a fire like a traveller. As he approached, the master reached behind him, picked up a small wooden statue of the Buddha in one hand, took a hatchet in the other hand, split the statue in two and placed the pieces on the fire. Once again, seeing the monk’s distress, the master spoke. “Look at the ground and tell me what you see.” When the monk responded that he saw pebbles and dirt, the master directed him to look closer. The monk bent over to get a better look. Each time the monk described what he saw, he was instructed to “looker closer still” until finally he was on his knees with his nose in the dirt. “From here, I can see nothing,” he said.
The master walked behind the monk, laughed, kicked him in the ass, and walked on.
The young monk got up, brushed off the dirt and sat down by the fire. Eventually, he too found himself laughing.
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When you went to Santa Fe, what did you see?
Thanks, James. It’s my variation on a couple of ancient zen koans, smashed together.