What’s the sound of one eye blinking?
More cosmic questions at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.
There are reports that The Master had the ability to fly through the air and jump from the ground to the roof in a single movement (though there are no documenting photographs or film clips to verify such claims). It is more likely that she used a ladder to climb to the roof. She was also a good tree climber as a child and continued the practice into her later years.
The Abbott often encouraged her students to go upon the roof in order to get a different perspective on life. Whenever the Abbott went missing, this is the first place the sisters would look and often where they found their teacher.
“When the hustle and bustle of the city gets you down,” Master Tarantino would say. “There’s always a place we can meet, where the air is clean and sweet . . . upon the roof.”
During high or low holy days, when many from the adjacent towns, villages, and cities came to hear Master Tarantino, she often gave her talks and seminars upon the roof. If it got to crowded, people would pass on what she was saying to those on the ladder, who then passed it along to everyone on the ground. By the time the last person heard The Master’s words whispered in their ear it might have sounded somewhat different than the original teaching. These talks became known as the Telephone Sessions.
More connections at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.
Master Tova’s niece, Chantall, had recently arrived from the land of the Maori to care for her aunt in her final days. The first thing The Master requested was that Chantall clean out her bedroom closet.
“It would be my pleasure Auntie. Where would you like me to put everything?”
“Just clean it out first, then we’ll figure out what to do with it.”
Chantall went to work and was surprised to find such an array of items packed into such a small space. She pulled out three bags of clothes, ten pairs of shoes (including some sequined platform clogs), a shredded bed roll, five pairs of candlesticks (which were melted almost to the wick), fifteen unmatched socks, a pair of rusty engraved silver scissors, scroll after scroll of some ancient texts (which she could not read and did not understand), two balls of yarn, a broken knitting needle, seven lightweight blouses (with stains and various colored material), a large pair of men’s pants, a moth-eaten velvet hat, an earring, nose ring, ankle and wrist bracelets, an array of playing cards, a begging bowl, an ochre-colored robe that had turned almost gray, a wooden chess set, two brass bells, some old letters (which she planned to read as soon as her Aunt drifted off to sleep, as they appeared to be love letters), a drawing of an elephant sitting in meditation, and a necklace with a green emerald pennant in the shape of a Bodhi tree. Clearing out the closet took much longer than she’d expected.
“Now what Auntie? What would you like me to do with all your things?”
“We must first clear out the closets of our mind, before we can be free,” Master Tova replied. “A mind cluttered with ideas, thoughts, the past, the future, or desire, will never find freedom.”
“Okay,” Chantall said, “but what do you want me to do with all this?” She nodded towards the high pile of Master Tarantino’s possessions.
“That? That is nothing more than a collection of matter, which had been stored inside a container of matter. Holding on or letting go of material objects makes no difference. It is our attachment to people, places, or things which causes suffering and keeps us on the endless wheel of karma.”
“Yes. I understand Aunt Tova, but where should I take it? What do you want me to do with it?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Just leave it. Better yet, why don’t you take what you wish, give some to your mother, and distribute the rest to charity?”
“I’m not sure how to say this Auntie, but most of this is useless. It wouldn’t even be worth donating.”
“Then burn it all. Light a pyre and reduce it to dust, just as I will soon become.”
“As you wish.”
Chantall took load after load out into the light of day, built a fire, and started throwing Master Tarantino’s material goods onto the fire. She kept the ancient scroll, the necklace, and a bell. She tried to retrieve the love letters, which she’d inadvertently thrown in with everything else, but it was too late. Then she returned to her aunt’s room.
“It is done Auntie.”
“Excellent. Now you are free. There is nothing holding you back. You can move on.”
“Those were your things, not mine.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Well, it doesn’t matter, does it? Desirelessness is a trap and desire is liberation.”
“Don’t you mean . . . oh, never mind.”
As Aunt Tova drifted off to sleep, Chantall quietly tiptoed out of her room, wondering what she would have found in her aunt’s love letters, and berating herself for having inadvertently thrown them into the fire.
Chantall told this story to her mother after she returned home from caring for Aunt Tova. Her mother wrote it down and later passed it on to an undisclosed student of her sisters community.
More stories of desire at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.
One rainy morning, Mistress Tarantino was sitting quietly in the garden under a banyan tree. She was very still. Suddenly, she heard a noise and opened her eyes. She watched a man climb over their two‑foot tall security fence and creep into the yard. He looked around quickly, but didn’t see her watching. The man plucked some apples off the apple tree, then picked up the large bronze statue of Buddha in the center of the garden, lifted it onto his shoulder, and started walking towards the fence.
“Hey!” Mistress Tarantino shouted. “Stop!”
The man didn’t look to see who was calling out. He began to run towards the wall. The Buddha was heavy, so he couldn’t run very fast, but he was almost at the wall when he was tackled from behind. The statue fell to the ground, the apples flew into the air, and the man lay sprawling.
The poor man looked up and saw Mistress Tarantino standing above him. “I didn’t take track in school for nothing,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” the thief replied. “Really, I’m very sorry. Please, don’t call the police.”
“Police?” Mistress Tarantino smirked, “we don’t need no stinking police.”
“What are you going to do? I’ll do anything to repay you.”
“Anything?” asked the Mistress.
“Okay, if you insist.” Mistress Tarantino helped the man to his feet. “First off, promise to never steal again.” The man nodded. “Secondly, please put the Buddha back where you got it.” The man nodded again. “You must be strong. That sucker is heavy duty. Last, but not least, come back here every day for the rest of the apple harvest, take what you can carry, and give them away to anyone you see who is hungry.”
The thief was perplexed. “Is that all? Is there no punishment?”
“You’ve already punished yourself with the karma you’ve created. There is no need to add oil to the fire.”
“Thank you Mistress.” The thief bowed, then took the statue and placed it back in the middle of the garden. “I will return tomorrow and take a bag of apples into town. I know several families that need them.” He bowed again and started to leave.
“One more thing,” Mistress Tarantino said. “I strongly urge you to meditate and strengthen your awareness. If you ever decide to steal again in broad daylight, at least you will be more attuned to your surroundings and will see if someone is sitting just ten yards away watching your every move.”
More thieving words at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.
We don’t know what is around the corner, but we know there is always a corner, unless we go straight, but then it’s difficult to get to a specific destination. But, then again, there is no need to get specific or always have a destination. Sometimes, not knowing where we are, or where we are going, keeps us grounded in the present and the unknown. Not knowing can be our friend and savior.
It is often the corners and our fear of what is around the bend, that prevents us from practicing wholeheartedly and without reservation. Fear can be a frightening emotion that takes us out of ourselves and throws us into the future or what lies deep in our subconscious. It is always beneficial to feel lost, let alone be lost.
Going directly into the fear, apprehension, and unknown is not easy, but it is the path we must follow. When possible, always take the beaten path, but when there is no path, road, or highway, we must make our own and not be afraid to step into the darkness, without a nightlight. And if the way is too hard or bumpy, one can just sit and wait and see what happens.
More lost words at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.
ain’t nothing like the real thing.
What is the “real thing”?
More questionable Mistress Marvin Gaye koans at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.
Master Tarantino Toshiba always believed in equality and freedom for all. She freely taught to one and all — young, old, men, women, children, smart, stupid, rich, poor, and even the middle-class. There was a little girl named Cinderella who had been taken in at the monastery after her parents had died. By the time she was of age, she started noticing that all the nuns would visit their master daily for a private session. She was told that these sessions were called nodzen and were designed for each student to be given a special koan (or mind problem) for them to solve and reach enlightenment. Cinderella said she “reeeeally” wanted to participate in nodzen as well, and asked for permission to do so. She was now of age, so her Master could not refuse.
Cinderella approached Master Tarantino Toshiba’s room the next morning and banged loudly on the door (as she had been instructed). She was invited in and asked to squat in the middle of the room.
“Tell me,” asked the Abbess. “Why are you here?”
“I have come to receive my koan Master.”
“Why are you here?”
“Because I want to be enlightened and find peace.”
“Why are you here?”
“I told you before,” Cinderella replied, somewhat annoyed. “I’m here…”
“Why . . . are . . . you . . . here?”
“How many times do I have to say it? I’m . . .”
“Stop!” exclaimed The Master. “This IS your koan. Why are you here? Not here in this room, but here on the planet. Why are you alive? What’s your purpose? What does it all mean? Why are you here?”
Cinderella rolled her eyes. “Oh. Now I see.”
“Not sure about that,” the Abbess whispered quietly.
“Thank you,” Cinderella said. She stood and bowed several times and then departed.
Cinderella pondered her koan deeply night and day. She watched the water in the stream flowing by and contemplated upon its existence. When her time for nodzen was upon her the following week, she entered The Master’s room with great excitement, certain that she’d solved the problem.
“Why are you here?” asked the Abbess.
“My existence is temporary. Like water, we come and go.”
“That is not the question. Yes, we are all transient, but why are we here?”
Making sure to avoid water the following week (and getting quite smelly as a result), Cinderella sat in the town square and watched and listened to the people living their lives. One afternoon, after seeing a farmer receive some turmeric in exchange for her chicken’s eggs, she knew she had discovered life’s purpose. She could hardly wait until it was her turn to visit the Abbess.
“I am here . . . we are all here,” Cinderella bubbled, when she next saw The Master, “to share what we have and help one another with what we need.”
The Master rolled her eyes and then smiled. “You think you’re hot, but you’re getting colder by the minute. The tinniest forms of life make exchanges for their existence, but why are they here? Why are you here?”
Cinderella was crestfallen. She had been certain that she’d had the answer. The following week she spent in isolation in a dark cave. There was no water or people to disturb her meditation. In the darkness, her sense of hearing was amplified. She became aware of her breath as it moved in and out. After hours of sitting it seemed as if the air going in and out of her lungs was a title wave of energy and her body a receptacle of its life force. Upon this discovery, she made her way out of the cave (after running into a few walls) and went straight to see The Master without waiting for her appointment. She pounded loudly on the door, entered, and called out.
“Master! Master!” Master Toshiba stepped aside just in time, as the door swung her way. “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!”
Master Toshiba stepped out from behind the door.
Cinderella looked around. “Oh, there you are. Master, I’ve got it!”
“I was just going out for some fresh air,” Master Toshiba replied. “Come with me.” Cinderella followed like an adoring puppy. “What is it you think you have?”
“Why I’m here. Why we’re here.”
“And why is that?”
“Because energy cannot exist in a vacuum. We are all interdependent.”
The Master stopped, put her hand on Cinderella’s shoulder and calmly said, “This is true, but you still do not understand why you are here.”
“Help me. I don’t know what to do.”
“Go,” the Abbott replied. “Go help yourself and don’t come back until you can answer the question.”
Cinderella’s head dropped and she started crying. “I give up.”
“That’s not why we are here, to give up.”
Four months later, while reading a children’s story, Cinderella asked, for the millionth time, why she was here. She realized that she would never know the answer and decided to tell the Abbess.
“There are so many stories Mistress and none of them can tell us why we are here or what our purpose is. I will never be able to answer your question. I’ll just live my life and do what I have to do to get by. I don’t need to know why in order to live.”
Mistress Toshiba smiled and kissed Cinderella on the forehead. “My dear little pumpkin. You got it.”
More questions at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.