A Monk's Zen Gesture

The librarian saw a monk sitting in meditation in his library for a long time. At length the librarian asked, "Why do you not read the sutras?" The monk answered, "I do not know how to read." "Why don't you ask someone who knows?" suggested the librarian. The monk stood up, put both hands on his chest in a Zen gesture, bowed deeply, and asked politely, "What is this?" The librarian could not tell him.

The librarian was attached to ideas and formalities: the sutras should be read and a library is the place to read them, not to meditate. But life is not as simple as that. The Buddha spent six years finding enlightenment. Joshu took six years finding the meaning of Mu. The true words cannot be asked. The monk who meditated made a sincere Zen gesture and asked, "What is this?" The librarian could not answer, for he did not understand that Buddha's teachings are not necessarily in the sutras.


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