Zen Without Zen Masters

I previously shared the Mark Twain quotation from Crazy Wisdom by Wes “Scoop” Nisker. Another book along somewhat the same line is Zen Without Zen Masters, by Camden Banares. The following gems are just examples of the crazy wisdom in the latter book:

Otis and the Older Student

An older student came to Otis and said, “I have been to see a great number of teachers and I have given up a great number of pleasures. I have fasted, been celibate and stayed awake nights seeking enlightenment. I have given up everything I was asked to give up and I have suffered, but I have not been enlightened. What should I do?” Otis replied, “Give up suffering.”

The Artist’s Enlightenment

An artist, depressed and almost unable to paint, consulted Sam, a Zen-oriented therapist, for aid in coping with his problems. He asked what the fee would be, explaining that his income had dwindled since he was doing fewer paintings. Sam said he fee would be two paintings. The first, to be titled Despair, was to be completed before the therapy began; the second was to be titled by the author and was to be started when the therapy ended.

The artist painted Despair and presented it to Sam, who looked at it and then threw it into the blazing fireplace. The artist walked out. He returned a few days later with the second painting.

Jerry’s Religion

When Jerry was working towards an advanced degree in psychology, she attended an institution which had formerly educated only students of one particular religion. The change in the religious makeup of the student body caused “What’s your religion?” to be one of the questions often asked of most new students. Jerry always responded to this query by saying, “Zen Baptist.” Some people heard only Baptist and Jerry related to them at that level. Other people heard only Zen and Jerry found them to be more interesting. A few heard what Jerry actually said and those were the people that Jerry considered part of her peer group.

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