Zen Koan

A puzzle used by Zen masters hoping to provoke a satori in their students.

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  • A Buddha—In Tokyo in the Meiji era there lived two prominent teachers of opposite characteristics. One, Unsho, an instructor in Shingon, kept Buddha's precepts scrupulously. He never drank intoxicants, nor did he eat after eleven o'clock in the morning. The other teacher, Tanzan, a professor of philosophy at the Imperial University, never observed the precepts. Whenever he felt like eating, he ate, and when he felt like sleeping in the daytime he slept. One day Unsho visited Tanzan, who was drinking wine at the time, not even a drop of which is suppposed to touch the tongue of a Buddhist. "Hello, brother," Tanzan greeted him. "Won't you have a drink?" "I never drink!" exclaimed Unsho solemnly. "One who does not drink is not even human," said Tanzan. "Do you mean to call me inhuman just because I do not indulge inintoxicating liquids!" exclaimed Unsho in anger. "Then if I am not human, what am I?" "A Buddha," answered Tanzan.

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