Infuriated with the stress of it all, the student closed his laptop in anger. He got up from the flat wooden chair, stretched his back and wondered out loud “what good is it all?” He wondered what good any of this talk of “Buddhism” ever got him. What good any of this “Zen” had ever done for him. For all his talk little benefit could shine through at that moment.
“Where is this Zen?” he thought. “What good are these koans I keep in my head, or the effort to focus on my breath and turn down the chatter in my mind that only returns moments later? Where is this Zen?”
He turned and saw an empty metal bowl on the floor that his son had been playing with earlier. Now it sat among the quiet clutter of midnight, reflecting the lone light left on for the student to work by. In that moment the Universe expanded forever, eternally empty was the vessel without name. Shining. Brilliant and Empty. Form with no form stretched across the cosmos until –
Of course it was a bowl. But when it was a bowl, it was no longer empty. Filled it was again. Stories of Japanese masters pouring tea and chopping wood filled the student’s head. Now he wondered “what happened to this zen?”
Now he looked at the bowl deeply. It was empty, and he knew that, but it wasn’t the same knowledge of the bowl he had moments prior when all that he knew of the bowl dropped away. He tried to get back there again, but realized the folly in that pursuit.
What now was he left with? Ahh! Before, it was no longer a bowl. Then once it was a bowl, it was distorted. Bowlness, he thought, was all that could be thought about the bowl tonight.
The student turned off the light and went to bed.