​Zen is an elephant copulating with a flea

Roshi Kapleau agreed to educate a group of psychoanalysts about Zen. After being introduced to the group by the director of the analytic institute, the Roshi quietly sat down upon a cushion placed on the floor. A student entered, prostrated before the master, and then seated himself on another cushion a few feet away, facing his teacher. “What is Zen?” the student asked. The Roshi produced a banana, peeled it, and started eating. “Is that all? Can’t you show me anything else?” the student said. “Come closer, please,” the master replied. The student moved in and the Roshi waved the remaining portion of the banana before the student’s face. The student prostrated, and left.

A second student rose to address the audience. “Do you all understand?” When there was no response, the student added, “You have just witnessed a first-rate demonstration of Zen. Are there any questions?”

After a long silence, someone spoke up. “Roshi, I am not satisfied with your demonstration. You have shown us something that I am not sure I understand. It must be possible to TELL us what Zen is.” “If you must insist on words,” the Roshi replied, “then Zen is an elephant copulating with a flea.”


2 thoughts on “​Zen is an elephant copulating with a flea

  1. The banana was a good example. We must peel back the skin to get at the fruit, i.e. look beyond external, apparent ‘realities’ to realize the internal, underlying Reality.

    I said that in my ebook often, albeit in various ways. One of them:
    Mystics say that you must go beyond the pleasures and disappointments of this life’s loves to realize divine Love. It is also necessary to surpass the little truths of today to accept eternal divine Truth. Transcend everyday realities to be aware of divine Reality. Live in the divine.


  2. Thank you so much for expounding further. I wish the student understood that teaching about truth is peeling back the mask to reveal one’s own true and original face.

    Its true what the mystics say: to go beyond pleasures and pains of this life is to find the perfect nirvana and wisdom. One has to give up one to attain the other.

    Liked by 1 person

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