A Great Zen Story


The students at No Wind Monastery were flabbergasted! They could hardly believe what they had just heard.


Master Blusime, the greatest Zen Master, since Dogen Zenji, had just revealed what they never thought they would hear. In their traditional morning congregation Master Blumise had said, “My most beloved family, I really need your help. Yesterday evening a guest at our renowned monastery asked me a very good question. He asked me, ‘What is the True Meaning of Zen?’ and asked if I could summarize it for him in just three words. My loved ones, please help me as I don’t know what to reply. I have asked the visitor to wait till the end of the week and then promised him my response. So please, by the end of the week, in three words give me the definition of Zen or the Absolute Truth. The definition of Zen is also the definition of Life. I look to you for help in this great crisis that has befallen me and the reputation of our great institution is at stake. Please save us from humiliation.”


Master Blumise had just confessed that he had been stumped by a question! That he did not know the answer and that too, to such a fundamental question. Perhaps he was losing his mind, maybe senility was setting in, maybe this was a test, maybe he was no longer enlightened and had fallen back into maayaa (illusion), the rumors were thick in the air. All the students had their take and all of them also saw this as a great opportunity to shine — to be the hero — to be the one who would save the day — all the students save one — our wise monk, Tara. Amidst all the excitement and gossip stood Tara, every so often just having a big laugh whenever the conversation was breached in her presence. She laughed and laughed all week in some secret delight, while the others mulled and mused the answer to this most interesting question.


Finally, the week ended and as requested by Master Blumise all the answers were written and submitted. They were to be read out after the morning breakfast in the Great Hall. The monks were anxious and excited… all but Tara, who continued to enjoy her private joke. Some monks, irritated by her mysterious behavior, finally approached her and inquired into the reason for her weird demeanor.


“The monastery is in trouble, Master Blumise has confessed he can’t answer the question of the visitor, this is a very serious situation for us and we have all worked very hard to solve this puzzle, but all week we have not seen you make any effort. All you do is laugh and giggle constantly. What is so funny?”

Tara, though, did not reply and shrugging her shoulders made off toward the Great Hall for the answer reading ceremony.


All is One: Wrong

All is Nothing: Wrong

Just be Yourself: Wrong

Follow Your Heart: Wrong

All is Illusion: Wrong

All is Love: Wrong

Be Here Now: Wrong

I am God: Wrong

Zen is Zen: Wrong

I am Nobody: Wrong

Being, Consciousness, Bliss: Wrong

I am That: Wrong

All is Mind: Wrong

All is Emptiness: Wrong

All is Buddha: Wrong

All are Enlightened: Wrong

Tick Tack Toe: Wrong

Then Finally….

I Don’t Know: Right


Tara had realized that Master Blumise was right all along when he said that the answer to the Question, “What is the True Definition of Zen?” was “I Don’t Know.” She also knew that the Great Master was far from losing his mind. Master Blumise bowed to Tara with a blissful smile for her right answer and Tara bowed back utterly grateful to her teacher for sharing his wisdom and love.


The True Meaning of Zen or the Absolute Truth is also the True Meaning of Life. If you can understand this answer completely you will understand all there is to understand. You will understand the heart of Zen, you will understand the heart of meditation and you will understand what all the great teachers have been trying to teach mankind over the centuries.


I can explain this answer in great detail, but instead let me suggest another way for this insight to explode in you. Can you right now, absolutely, sincerely, actually come to the point where you can say “I don’t know” to the question “What is the purpose of life?” Which is just another way of asking “What is the Meaning of Life or Zen???”

If you can come to that point where you have no answer to offer, the mind will have nothing to pursue.


As long as you think you know what the answer is, think you know what is important, think you know what is worthwhile, think you know what to do to get where you think you need to go, you will chase. As long as you chase, you will never find, because spiritual journey is without distance. It begins from where we are and ends in where we have always been!!

Lao Tzu



Zen or the realization of the Pure Self or the Absolute Truth is only possible in the absence of the finite ego. Where there is ego there is no awareness of Truth or Pure Self. In short the ego can never realize the Truth and therefore can never have the awareness of Truth. But the one who answers is the ego. Therefore the correct answer is “I don’t know“.


Truth is beyond words and thoughts. Therefore it cannot be defined. Truth defined is Truth defiled. When asked to describe a rose flower, we can describe it elaborately, but can we describe rose fragrance? When asked to describe in words what is rose fragrance, we will remain silent. Similarly, we can elaborately describe sweet dishes, but can we describe sweetness itself? When asked to describe sweetness in words we will remain silent. If we cannot describe in words our day to day mundane sensory experiences, how can we put in words that Absolute Truth, which is beyond sensory perception, beyond thoughts and words? So from the stand point of the realized Master, when asked ‘what is Zen or Truth?’ in response the Master will remain silent. Hence to the question ‘what is Zen / Truth?’, the answer from the standpoint of the finite ego is “I don’t know” and from the standpoint of the realized Master is mounam / golden silence.


No positive statements can be made. The ultimate teaching is by silence.

Silence the mind and listen: this is the final state of true meditation.


Those who know do not say; those who say, do not know.

The wise are therefore silent. The clever speak, the stupid argue.

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