Taking Liberty With the Truth
For my satirical book of koans, stories, and words of wisdom (Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire), I used the same format that was used in the 1961 classic book Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings. Zen Flesh presented the sayings, teachings, and koans of real Japanese teachers, whereas Zen Master Tova takes liberty with a fictional character and the truth, to put it mildly.
From Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
Nan-in a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “You are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty our cup?”
From Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba
“Do cats and dogs have Buddha-nature” Sister Sexton asked Master Toshiba.
“Can cats and dogs attain enlightenment?”
“Can all animals reach Samadhi?”
“Do insects and bugs have Buddha-nature?” Sister Sexton persisted.
“Yes, they do,” The Master, patiently replied.
“Is it possible for vegetables, fruit, and flowers to see their true selves?”
“Yes, they can.”
“What about dirt, grass, trees, rocks, and water?”
“All life can become conscious of its true nature, even if it does not have a consciousness, as we know it.”
“Then surely, all women and men can awake to their Buddha-nature and find peace?”
“Yes, all women can express their Buddha-nature and attain enlightenment.” Master Tarantino paused, “As far as ‘all men’. I’ll have to think about that.”
Perhaps this use of fact and fiction are more intertwined than we like to believe, and history is permeated with realities which have been diluted, reinterpreted, and/or intentionally changed, in order to favor, or present events, or beliefs, in the manner and fashion that the writer in the moment chooses, or “believes” to be true. Read Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba and do your own sniff test to see if any of it rings true, or it is a total farce.