Three Zen Stories

Stay on the Path

As with all old stories, Zen stories have spawned very many variations. I’ve chosen to take many liberties, recounting the stories in less “dated” (i.e.. “… a samurai entered a tea house …”) fashion. These three Zen stories are the foundation of Fishnu’s teaching. They are extremely powerful, and at first sound simply like “Ah, that’s a nice way to see it” stories.

My intent is that your perception of these stories will change along with you as you become better at being Now. They are also presented in the order by which one encounters them, in a highly iterative way, on the path of Enlightenment:

  1. The Empty Cup – Before we can transform, we must let go of all our clinging, our dukkha.
  2. Is That So – Enlightenment is 100% acceptance of what is.
  3. The Man with the Bag – This Universe is driven by change. We become Enlightened so we can move on without Dukkha.

The Empty Cup

An expert C# programmer needed to update her skillset to that of the new functional programming paradigm. She found a master Haskell programmer who invited her over for coffee. After filling the C# programmer’s cup with coffee the master Haskell programmer asked if she would like to try yerba mate. The C# programmer enthusiastically said yes, to which the master Haskell programmer began filling the coffee cup, beyond full, with a mix of coffee and yerba mate spilling out all over.

The C# programmer shouted, “Are you crazy? The cup is already full! And the coffee is mixed up with the yerba mate!”

The master Haskell programmer replied, “Before you can enjoy yerba mate, you must first empty your cup of the coffee.”

Is That so?

A junior IT worker found the root cause of a security leak coming from a new graph database. Being new to graph databases, he failed to secure one part correctly. He reported to the executives that it was the fault of this new graph database technology which was championed by this master programmer named Hakuin.

The executives stormed Hakuin’s cubicle, chastising him for getting them to adopt this newfangled technology. “What were you thinking?! No one was ever fired for going with SQL Server! Idiot!” They demoted him to an entry-level developer in one of the most troubled departments, with absolutely no visibility to the executives. When they asked him to sign a paper agreeing to the demotion, Hakuin simply replied, “Is that so?”, and signed the paper.

Over the next two years Hakuin implemented his graph technology and that once troubled department now became the most integral department, the focal point of strategic intelligence. The company, once a little “David”, was on its way to becoming “Goliath”. Hakuin himself became a highlight recruiting tool for top programmer talent at that company.

But rather than recognize Hakuin’s achievement and make him the department head, the executives placed their own team there, taking it from Hakuin. All he had to say was, “Is that so?”

The Man with the Bag

A newly-minted IT engineer grew weary of the stress of two-week delivery cycles, one immediately after another. But there was a senior IT engineer in full concentration working away, fully focused yet somehow unstressed.

The younger IT engineer approached the cubicle of the senior engineer and asked, “How is it that you are still so focused on this work after years at this sweatshop pace? I see peace yet full attention in your eyes.”

The senior engineer simply turned away from her monitor towards the young engineer and calmly smiled.

“I see!!”, the young engineer cried. “What comes after?!”

The senior engineer, turned back to her monitor and continued on with her work.

What are Enemies?

Sega Lilly
Predator and Prey. Not shown are the predators of this very popular prey.

I once asked the Etnernal Fishnu, “Do you have any enemies?”

EF: By your definition, yes, I do. But ‘enemy’ is a concept with meaning only in your fragmented view of the Universe.

Me: Oooo, Oooo, Is he Lucifer, Satan … Beezlebub?! No! Mara!

EF: I know him as Master Pi Lau.

Master Pi Lau, top-left.
Master Pi Lau, top left.

Me: ‘Pie-Lau’? Is he here, on Earth now?

EF: No, ‘Pee-Lau”, and yes, he’s right here.

Me: Right where?

EF: Everywhere. He is everything I am not. Look, he’s right there.

The Eternal Fishnu pointed his fin in some abritrary direction. I looked there and saw a being that looked mostly like Fishnu, but green. I looked back towards Fishnu. “I see him! I see Master Pi Lau! I see him!” But Fishnu wasn’t there. “Fishnu! Where are you?!”

EF: I’m right here.

I turned towards Fishnu’s voice while pointing towards Master Pi Lau. But now Master Pi Lau wasn’t there.

EF: You can’t see us at the same time … we are One. When you see me, he is everything else, and when you see him, I am everything else. Without Master Pi Lau, I have no form for your human eyes to see. All that is not me, shapes me … at least here on this fragmented realm.

EF: Now, let me ask you the same question. Do you have enemies?

I thought about it for a minute.

Me: There are those who I have beefs with, but it’s always been temporary, and ‘enemy’ is much too strong a word for any of those people now.

EF: Are these people, from the present or past, evil? Perhaps they believe you to be the evil one? Did they not forge your spirit, and did you not forge theirs? No matter what our human mind may think of these ‘enemies’ the force of everything forms you.

EF: For the Enlightened, there is no concern for good or evil, better or worse. There is only evolving with the constant change driven by the Eternal Process of creation and destruction. Without which, there is nothing. If everything stopped, the Yin and Yang, the Tori and Uke … yes, conflict between ‘enemies’ … nothing is alive, there is nothing to observe and no observer. A photo has no sound, no dynamic, a Universe without churn is nothing.

EF: Friends, enemies, love, hate … if these notions are within you, you haven’t fully accepted ‘What Is’, ‘Now’. You’re still protesting to the Universe about what is before you. When you stop seeking your Paradise you will be in the Universe’s Paradise.

How I Met Rubber Ducky

Rubber Ducky can’t swim!

Now that Rubber Ducky is a Supremely Awakened One, I will tell the story of how I met Rubber Ducky.

I found Rubber Ducky sitting on a stack of bathroom towels in a Fairfield Inn in Joliet, IL on July 12, 2013. At first, I thought this was just a little gift from the hotel, but when I commented on it during checkout, I was told there was no such gift. Apparently Rubber Ducky was abandoned by the previous guests and the housekeeper didn’t have the heart to throw him away. So like many Enlightened Ones (with the ironic exception of Siddhartha Gautama), Rubber Ducky came from very humble beginnings.

I took a liking to Rubber Ducky and he accompanied me on my little weekend adventure. I had been working in Matteson, IL, and planned to hike at Starved Rock State Park – it caught my attention because it’s like “Map Rock”. I had my first Chicago Hot Dog that weekend. I haven’t mentioned that Rubber Ducky has a Chicago accent similar to that of Mike Ditka, except he’s just saying “Mack”. “Dragged tru da garden!”

A few weeks later, Mrs. Hanamoku was visiting her parents in near Chicago. I drove the 5.5 hours from Matteson to her parents for the weekend. I thought I’d let Rubber Ducky swim in the lake, and I found out why he was left behind. He cannot swim!!! He turns sideways and looks like a discarded tilapia. He couldn’t do what he was born to do – however, this past summer, I did learn that the phrase, “Like a duck to water”, is truer than is even obvious. And we made Chicago Hot Dogs – I brought the neon green relish and poppy seed buns from Matteson.

Anyway, I challenge anyone to find a Rubber Ducky more photographed than this one. Tourists at Bryce Canyon and Zion have pictures of Rubber Ducky too!

Which Way Do We Go?


On our last hike at Redfish Lake last week, The Eternal Fishnu swam onto this trail sign (he swims through air, space, things …) and said:

“There is really an arrow pointing in EVERY direction, including upwards, downwards, and even through more dimensions. But for your flesh and blood vehicle, not all directions are available. This is by design with no malice intended. It trains your sentience to be fully accepting of what is at your Now, and that is the point of this life on Earth. The point is not to conquer others, generate great wealth, fame, not even health. No matter how powerful, rich, famous, and healthy one may be, they will be as miserable as anyone if they lack the skill for full acceptance. So don’t scatter your attention towards all those countless others pursuing their thing. Be the master of full acceptance of what is now, and you will see the entire Universe. You will know you are this master when you are fully at peace – and that’s the real treasure. A master of Zen hasn’t given up, hasn’t fully capitulated to life. A master of Zen has conquered chaos, the most powerful force out there for an emergent sentience.”