Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Zen Tale

This is my retelling of an old Zen story, which I've come across in a number of places.

A man was running from a tiger, and he came to a cliff. He began climbing down a vine, hoping that the tiger could not follow him down and he could thereby escape. As he was on his way down, however, he spied a second tiger waiting for him at the bottom of the cliff. As he hung there on the vine, wondering what to do, he saw a rat begin to chew through the top of the vine.

Then he spied a strawberry, just in arm's reach. He reached out, plucked the berry, and ate it. It was the most sweet and succulent berry he had ever tasted. He closed his eyes and tasted the berry with his whole being, and said aloud, "what a wonderful berry this is!"

Then the rat finished chewing through the vine and the man fell to the ground, breaking his leg. With his leg broken, he could not run. The tiger on the ground came up to him and batted him around as kittens do mice, giving him one painful cut after another. One swipe tore out his left eye. Eventually the tiger tired of playing with him, and bit a large chunk out of the man's stomach for its dinner.

The man went into shock, the pain of the wound coursing through his entire body. But he did not die: he hung on to life for five more days as the two tigers (who, it turned out, were mates) used him as a source of food. His mind was dulled by shock, but not enough to keep the fear and pain from filling his world like a bright light. After five days of agony unlike any that can be described, he finally died.

His corpse continued to serve as a food source for the tigers for several more days. After that, the rat that had chewed through the vine came to gnaw on what was left of his bones.

1 comment:

goethean said...

I'm guessing that the point has something to do with the strawberry.