a selection of zen parables

As long as we have had Zen, and parables, we have had Zen parables (and hockey). Even though the origin of the Zen parable, like the origin of fish sticks, is shrouded in mystery, we do know that the Zen parable is ancient technique designed to instruct the listener in the mysteries of Zen by clearing the listener's sinuses. Zen parables range from simple but deceptive questions (eg. "What is the sound of one hand masturbating") to long stories and even unusual items like the instruction manual for the '76 Chevy Basho, a family station wagon built with no doors. I have collected several of the rarest and most expensive ones for you.


One day a disciple met Zen Master Harold coming down the road, avoiding ants and eating a stick of cured beef.

"Zen Master Harold," said the disciple, "is there greater Buddha nature in a Slim Jim or a fish sandwich?"

"I have no idea," responded Zen Master Harold.

"Ah, you wish me to reflect my question back on me for further pondering," the disciple reasoned.

"No, I'm not actually a Zen master," said Zen Master Harold. "Zen Master Harold is my name".

"Oh," said the disciple. "But your book -"

"I wrote a novelization of a second-tier George Romero flick for some quick cash in the seventies," said Zen Master Harold. "What is wrong with you people?"


A man walks up to the owner of a horse and says, "I bet you 500 bucks that I can make your horse laugh and then cry". The owner says, "You're on". The man approaches the horse and tries every joke he can think of. When that fails to make the horse laugh, he then relates the most tragic stories he can think of, often throwing in noble but doomed horse characters for relevance. The horse neither guffaws nor sheds a single tear. Eventually the man returns to the owner. "Your horse is deaf," the man says.


It came to pass that two generals of mighty armies met on the field of battle. They discussed the best private schools for their children and speculated on the nature of financial markets. One reminded the other of a longstanding invitation to dinner with the family that had never been taken up on. Then they shed their human faces and revealed their trans-dimensional reptilian aspect, which allowed them to make out on several planes of reality at once.


A man walks up to the owner of a horse and says, "I bet you 500 bucks that I can make your horse laugh and then cry". The owner says, "My horse is deaf". "No problem," says the man, "for I am a practioner of le pantomîme". The owner gives the man five hundred dollars to go away. Oh, c'est drôle.


Once there was a well-known philosopher who decided to learn all that there was to learn about Zen and thereby become the next Grand Zen King. For many years he studied every Zen text known to humanity. He wrote copiously on Zen, opened up a school of Zen thinking and even gained the powers of immortality and levitation.

Finally, when he was a very old man, the philosopher decided that he had attained sufficient Zen mastery to challenge the Grand Zen King for the his Zen crown and his royal fleet of solid gold horses. He climbed to the Castle on Top of the Mountain. When he arrived, the King's servants informed the philosopher that the King was visiting the Summer Palace on the Coast. The philosopher travelled to the Summer Palace, where he was told the King was out at the moment, but would he mind waiting? The philosopher said that he did not mind waiting, and sat in a comfortable chair with a magazine to pass the time.

That was five hundred years ago. The philosopher has read the magazine at least 200,000 times. He is still waiting. Meanwhile the Grand Zen King has gone to live on the moon.


Two Zen scholars were sitting around the apartment on a Friday evening. One of them said, "Let us play a game".

The other one said, "That sounds like a good idea. What game did you have in mind?"

The first one said, "I have already won".

The other one said, "At being an asshole?"