After years of losing students to Master Toshiba, the local priest of another Buddhist sect could take it no more. He walked to Master Toshiba’s training hall and challenged The Master.
“You have many students,” the priest said, with his ego hanging on his sleeve. “What do you have that I don’t have?”
“I’m much better to look at,” replied Master Toshiba.
The ensuing laughter further infuriated the priest.
“Seriously,” he exclaimed. “You are not the wisest, nor have you studied the longest. Your words are shallow and your promises cheap.”
Some of the students became agitated at the priest’s belligerence, but Master Toshiba motioned for them to be still.
“Which of my words have been shallow and to what promises are you referring?”
“Well . . . well . . . ” the flustered priest hesitated and then said, “Everything! But, if you want specifics . . . here’s one.” He raised his finger, pointed it at The Master, and mockingly said, ‘You get out of it what you put into it.’ “That’s not Buddhism, that’s just common sense and even that isn’t always true. Sometimes, you don’t get anything out of it, no matter how much you put into it.”
“Is that like your teaching?” Master Toshiba inquired. “You’ve put everything into it and your meditation hall is empty.”
“How dare you? I still have students. There may not be as many as you have, but mine are tried and true. They practice day and night. Their understanding deepens and enlightenment is theirs to have and to hold.”
“Since when did it become possible to own enlightenment? How do you hold it? Where is it?”
“You know what I mean. Quit turning my words around and trying to make me look like a fool.”
“There is no need to try,” replied Master Toshiba. “Your actions today have revealed your true self.”
The priest was suddenly overcome with shame. He kneeled down.
“And as far as promises,” Master Toshiba continued. “There is no such thing. The only promise I’ve ever made is that I can make no promises.” She paused. “Well, there was one promise. When I was young I promised my parents I’d never leave them, but I did. Oh yeah, there was also that time . . . anyway, as far as our spiritual practice, the only promise I can make is that the sun will rise tomorrow, that we have all been born and that we will all die.”
“I beg you Master.” The priest prostrated himself on the floor. “I am not worthy, but I ask humbly that I be allowed to be your student.”
“You probably aren’t worthy,” The Master replied “and I doubt you’ll learn anything, but you’re welcome to join us.” The priest stood and bowed repeatedly. “Go see Brother Peacock next door. They’re leaving on holiday tomorrow. Tell him I said you could tag along. Come see me upon your return.”
“Thank you. Thank you.” The priest continued bowing as he walked backwards. “I will see you as soon as we return.”
More upside down wisdom at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.