17. Stingy in Teaching.  Dr. Kusuda goes to Zen Guru.  Kusuda pondered this problem of Mu (No-Thing) for two years.

Kusuda pondered this problem of Mu (No-Thing) for two years.
In Tokyo, a young physician named Kusuda had a fortuitous encounter with an old college friend who had immersed himself in the study of Zen. Intrigued, Kusuda inquired about the nature of Zen and its significance.
His friend responded cryptically, "I cannot explain Zen to you directly, but one thing is certain: understanding Zen will dispel your fear of death."
Intrigued by this notion, Kusuda expressed his willingness to explore Zen and sought guidance on finding a suitable teacher. His friend directed him to a renowned master called Nan-in.
Curious and determined, Kusuda embarked on his journey to meet Nan-in. Carrying a dagger as a metaphorical test of the master's fearlessness, he arrived at Nan-in's dwelling.
Upon seeing Kusuda, Nan-in greeted him warmly, exclaiming, "Hello, friend! How have you been? It's been quite some time since we last met!"
Perplexed, Kusuda replied, "We have never met before."
Smiling, Nan-in clarified, "Ah, my mistake. I mistook you for another physician who is currently receiving instruction here."
Kusuda's opportunity to test Nan-in's fearlessness was lost in that moment. Reluctantly, he asked if he could receive instruction from the master.
Nan-in responded, "Zen is not an arduous task. If you are a physician, treat your patients with kindness. That is Zen."
Kusuda made three subsequent visits to Nan-in, only to receive the same instruction each time: "As a physician, do not waste your time here. Return home and take care of your patients."
Puzzled by how such teachings could alleviate the fear of death, Kusuda voiced his frustration on his fourth visit. He expressed his disappointment, stating, "My friend claimed that understanding Zen would dispel my fear of death. Yet, every time I come here, you simply tell me to tend to my patients. I am starting to question the validity of your so-called Zen, and I don't think I will visit you anymore."
Nan-in, undisturbed by Kusuda's outburst, smiled and gently patted the doctor. Realizing his strictness, he decided to offer Kusuda a koan—a paradoxical question designed to provoke insight. He handed Kusuda a koan known as Joshu's Mu, the first mind-enlightening problem found in the book called The Gateless Gate.
For the next two years, Kusuda delved into the depths of the Mu koan, pondering its profound implications. Eventually, he believed he had grasped the ultimate truth. However, when he shared his revelation with Nan-in, the master calmly stated, "You have not yet attained it."
Undeterred, Kusuda persisted in his concentrated contemplation for another year and a half. Gradually, his mind grew serene, and the complexities of life dissolved. The concept of No-Thing, represented by the koan Mu, became his truth. Unbeknownst to him, he had become liberated from the concerns of life and death, dedicating himself fully to serving his patients.
Filled with gratitude and a sense of accomplishment, Kusuda returned to visit his old teacher, Nan-in. Their eyes met, and without uttering a word, Nan-in merely smiled—a silent acknowledgement of Kusuda's awakening.

Postscript: Explaining the word 'Mu.'
The word "Mu" holds a special significance in Zen Buddhism. In this context, Mu represents the concept of "No-Thing" or "Not," which transcends dualistic thinking and defies definition.
The word "Mu" holds a special significance in Zen Buddhism. In this context, Mu represents the concept of "No-Thing" or "Not," which transcends dualistic thinking and defies definition. It is a response to a question or a koan that cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no," nor can it be understood through conventional logic or reasoning.
By presenting Kusuda with Joshu's Mu as a koan (question), Nan-in aimed to guide him beyond the limitations of intellectual understanding and into direct experiential realization. The purpose of working with Mu was to provoke a state of profound questioning, where the mind becomes absorbed in the inquiry and eventually transcends conceptual thinking.
For two long years, Kusuda grappled with the koan, allowing it to penetrate his being and challenge his deepest assumptions. Yet, even when he believed he had reached certainty, Nan-in gently indicated that he had not yet fully grasped the essence of Mu.
The process continued for another year and a half until Kusuda's mind finally settled into a state of calm clarity. In this serene state, the barriers of duality dissolved, and he experienced the truth of No-Thing directly. He transcended the fear of life and death, embodying the teachings of Zen through his compassionate service to his patients.
The significance of the word 'Mu' lies in its ability to shatter conceptual thinking and open the door to direct experience. It invites us to transcend our ordinary perception of reality and embrace a deeper truth beyond words and concepts. Through the practice of working with Mu, Zen practitioners aim to transcend duality, embrace the interconnectedness of all things, and awaken to the fundamental nature of existence.
In the story of Kusuda and Nan-in, 'Mu' serves as the catalyst for Kusuda's transformation, guiding him from intellectual understanding to a direct experience of Zen. Nan-in's smile upon Kusuda's return signifies the unspoken recognition of his student's awakening—a confirmation of the transformative power of Zen practice and the liberation it brings.
In the end, the journey of Kusuda and his encounter with Zen master Nan-in remind us that true understanding often lies beyond words and concepts. It is through direct experience and the dissolution of duality that we can truly transcend our fears, embrace the present moment, and find liberation in the depths of our being.
18. A Parable.   
Once upon a time, Buddha shared a profound parable with his disciples. He spoke of a man who found himself in a perilous situation.
As the man journeyed through a vast field, he suddenly came face to face with a fierce tiger. Fear gripped his heart, and he knew he had to escape. Swiftly, he turned and began to run, with the tiger hot on his heels.
Desperately seeking refuge, the man spotted a precipice up ahead. Without hesitation, he leaped towards it, managing to grab hold of a sturdy wild vine that grew on the edge. Hanging precariously over the steep drop, he glanced up to see the tiger peering down at him, its hunger evident in its eyes.
In this moment of intense fear and uncertainty, the man looked down and discovered another great danger. Far below him, another tiger waited patiently, ready to devour him once he lost his grip on the vine. The situation seemed hopeless, with danger lurking both above and below.
As the man clung to the vine, hoping for salvation, he noticed something extraordinary. Two mice, one white and one black, emerged and began nibbling away at the vine that sustained him. The realization struck him that his time was running out. The vine, the only thing keeping him from certain death, was gradually being consumed.
In the midst of this dire predicament, the man's attention was drawn to a small but vibrant strawberry growing nearby. Its lusciousness was irresistible, and a glimmer of joy sparked within him. With a mix of courage and resignation, he made a choice. With one hand clutching the vine, he reached out and plucked the strawberry with the other.
As he tasted the sweetness of the strawberry, it brought a momentary reprieve from his desperate circumstances. He savored its flavor fully, embracing the beauty and delight it offered. In that fleeting moment, he allowed himself to be fully present, finding solace amidst the chaos.
Buddha concluded the parable, leaving his disciples to reflect on its profound wisdom. Life, he implied, can often resemble the situation of the man on the vine. We may find ourselves surrounded by danger, uncertainty, and the passage of time. Yet, even in the face of inevitable challenges, we have the capacity to find joy and appreciate the preciousness of each moment.