A Rewritten Zen Koan

23. Eshun’s Departure

When Eshun, the Zen nun, was past sixty and about to leave this world, she asked some monks to pull up wood in the yard.

Seating herself firmly in the center of the funeral pyre, she had it set fire around the edges.

“O nun!” shouted one monk, “is it hot in there?”

“Such a matter would concern only a stupid person like yourself,” answered Eshun.

[“Go fuck yourself, then, you stupid fucking asshole!” screamed the monk, picking up a burning piece of wood and throwing it at his master before the other monks could restrain him. “Burn in hell for all I care! I hope the flames are hot! I hope they’re scalding hot!”

Breaking free of the crowd of other monks, the monk threw himself onto the funeral pyre and punched his former master in the face. “There! How do you like that?” he screamed, kicking her chin hard enough to unhinge her lower jaw. “How’s that feel? Can you feel this?” he asked, shoving a burning coal in her mouth. “Is that hot? Or am I just too fucking stupid to ask? I can’t believe this! Ten years of listening to your shit every day, and this is what I get! All I asked was a simple question! But nooo! You couldn’t answer it! Just like that question about whether a dog can have Buddha nature or not! I asked you, and all you said was: Moo! What the fuck does that mean? Are you a fucking cow? Huh?”

Some monks dressed in fireman’s clothes–firemonks–leaped up onto the pyre and pulled the monk off his master, and the crowd of other monks surrounded him, beating and kicking him until he passed out.

“Not Buddha material,” murmured Eshu, spitting out the burning coal and lying back down.]

The flames rose, and she passed away.

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