For Saima: it’s ALL you

Hello little sister, I get that you did not get our conversation today.  With that in mind I have found a parable that may better convey what I clearly was not able to convey to you today.  To make sense of the parable it is worth knowing that there is tradition in Japanese Zen which can be best described as ‘trading dialogue for shelter’.  If a wandering monk wishes to stay the night then he can do so provided he wins the dialogue.  And even if he does win the debate he can only stay for one night and then must move on. The monastery referred to in the parable is run by two monks who are brothers.  The older brother is highly educated.  The younger brother is not educated – he is simple and has only one eye.  Here is the parable:

“One evening a wandering monk came to ask for lodging (for the night). The elder brother was very tired as he had been studying for many hours….

So he told his younger brother to go and take the debate. “Request that the dialogue be in silence,” said the elder brother.

A little later the wandering monk (the traveller) came to the elder brother and said, “What a wonderful fellow your brother is.  He has won the debate very cleverly and so I must on. Good night.”

“Before you go,” said the elder brother, “please relate the dialogue to me.”

“Well,” said the wandering monk, “first I held up one finger to represent the Buddha.  Then your brother held up two to represent the Buddha and his teaching.  So I held up three fingers to represent Buddha, his teaching and his followers. Then your clever brother shook his clenched fist in my face to indicate that all three come from one realisation.”  With that the wandering monk left.

A little while later the younger brother came in looking distressed.  “I understand you won the debate,” said the elder brother.  “Won nothing,” said the younger brother, ‘that wandering monk is a very rude man!”

“Oh!” said the elder brother, “Tell me the subject of the debate.”

“Why,” said the younger brother, “the moment he saw me he held up one finger insulting me by indicating that I have only one eye.  But I thought as he is a stranger I’d be polite, so I held up two fingers to congratulate him on having two eyes.  At this the impolite wretch held up three fingers to indicate that between us we have only three eyes.  So I got mad and threatened to punch his nose – so he went.” 

The elder brother laughed.

Saima, there is immense wisdom in this parable and I do hope that you get it.  Great if you get it, great if you do not get it – all is whole, complete and perfect just as it is and just as it is not.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant working at the intersection of strategy, customer, and technology. Combine a tendency to think strategically with a penchant for getting my hands dirty at the coalface of implementation.

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