TRUE ZEN HAS NO SMELL OF ZEN

HUMOR: The freedom and spontaneity of enlightened ones

Tetsuma, an old woman, visited Isan, an accomplished Zen Guru, one day. Isan greeted her: “Welcome, Old Cow!” Tetsuma said, “In a few days there will be a ceremony celebrating the restoration of Buddhism to imperial favor. Is Your Reverence going to attend?” In reply, Isan flung himself, sprawling, on the floor. Tetsuma left.

Tetsuma was a nun. Her surname was Ryu. She was unusually able, intelligent, and sharp. Those foolhardy enough to challenge her Zen were crushed; hence she was given the name, Tetsuma, which means “iron grinding mill.” Isan called her by her nickname, Old Cow, meaning “old female buffalo.” It was a name of camaraderie, not derision. In those times the buffalo was a precious animal. When living, it provided humankind with labor, milk, and fertilizer; when dead, it provided hide for leather. Isan always commented that, if reborn, he would like to be reborn as a buffalo.

This Zen koan demonstrates the freedom and spontaneity of enlightened ones. Tetsuma and Isan are understanding, frank, and intimate. There is no formality. Isan does not hesitate to express exactly what he thinks of such ceremonies as celebrating official sanction of Buddhism. This is not any different with the religious ceremonies that are relished in the modern world where people pretend to be so holy and melancholic as if enlightened during such periods as Christmas or Ramadan. The human mind is universally same regardless of the cloak of religion or dogma attached to it. Their friendship is completely without pretence or artificiality. The enlightened world is free and natural;

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