Sunday, May 27, 2012

Not Zen 7: Fake Success

A town held contests for many talents in their theatre, among them singing, dancing, and playing music. A local actor won them all. It became a matter of gossip in the town. When the contest judges heard that the actor was studying towards enlightenment once a week on Mondays at a local temple, they decided that a wisdom contest was in order.

The contest board invited many of the local religious leaders to compete against one another. All refused. But the actor, wishing to lend some of his fame to his master, begged him to join in the competition so that an audience could see the difference between fake wisdom and the real thing.

On the night of the performance, the actor, pretending to be wise, gave the audience a stirring speech. To his secret glee, he had copied the speech word for word from his instructor. The crowd applauded wildly. Now they will see the real thing, thought the actor.

When it was the master's turn to come on stage, the small man stood in silence for a moment. He closed his eyes and held still. A little girl in the front row began to cry. After a second or two, the master knelt to the girl and handed over his prayer wheel. She began twirling it. She stopped fussing and her parents nodded in gratitude.

Satisfied by this lesson, the master left the stage. But the audience was angered by his abrupt departure. They voted unanimously for the performance of the actor instead. In back of the stage, as he witnessed the voting, the actor turned to his master in tears.

"Why are they applauding me?" he wondered, aghast. "I'm a fake. And they know I'm a fake."

The master embraced him for a moment.

"See you on Monday," he said.

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