Here is presented an unpublished Zen koan.
It was the morning when the snow and dew argued on the leaves of the cherry tree. The tree never participated. The leaves never participated. The sun was warmer than she had been a few weeks ago when the snow had won. Makoto was a bright boy and disciple of Kazuo. Unlike most boys his age, he wasn’t admitted into a monastry, but brought under the aegis of Kazuo. Everyone in Kyoto regarded Kazuo as an enigma and spoke with two tongues about him. Makoto heard neither.Makoto watched the sun rise and melt the snow on the branch that dangled outside the zendo. With every falling drop his mind grew anxious. The cherry tree had borne her tears far too long and was gladdened at the sight of the golden orb. Soon she would blossom into a shocking bunch of pink against the azure sky and the white of spring afternoons. But the future wasn’t present in Makoto’s mind. When the remains of the defeated snow dangled dearly to the sallow leaves he jumped up and ran to his Master. His footsteps made no more noise than the fall of the now melted snow.
He waited outside his Master’s chamber. His Master was deep in meditation. He sank to the floor and touched his head to the tatami within the chamber. Kazuo opened his eyes and softly shut them, before Makoto raised his troubled head. Kazuo’s eyes shone with a smile none could see. The sun was up above the house and Kazuo was still in meditation. Makoto waited as he knew not what else to do.When the sun lit the other side of the house, Kazuo opened his eyes and nodded his permission to Makoto.
“I am sorry to disturb you Master.”
“I wanted to know what is love?”
“Hmmm. I need some tea.”
Makoto took permission and rushed to make tea. He picked the finest herbs and jasmine and prepared tea for his Master. He wasn’t allowed to taste it before his Master did, so he carefully smelt the snaking fumes and decided that it was appropriate to serve it to his Master.
Kazuo had his tea. He sipped every drop and let it run on his tongue. Makoto realised that he was hungry too as he hadn’t had his meals. He gulped while he covered the teapot with the black woolen cloth. Kazuo finally replaced the cup in the tray.
“Master, if I may ask you something?”
“What is love Master? In all its forms?”
“Hmmm. Do we have sufficient rice at home for dinner?”
Makoto excused himself and rushed to the kitchen. He checked all the containers and bowls and made sure that the sounds of emptiness of the vessels and his stomach were well concealed. He paused to gather the right words and rushed back.
“Master, I haven’t done used my begging bowl today. Please let me go out and get some rice.”
“Hmmm. Saburo-san had promised to offer the food to our household. Maybe you could save time by going there.”
Makoto requested permission and grabbed his begging bowl and ran out. The evening made his feet frigid and the straw sandals were no protection from the steely pinch of the early night breeze. He rushed to Saburo-san’s house and knocked on the door. Nobody answered the door. He knocked again and curled his toes into a fist. A soft voice came from within.
“Who is it?”
“Bhiku Makoto. Master Kazuo sent me to ask Saburo-san for some rice. Not much. Just enough for two bodies.”
“Father is not at home. Can you come later?”
Makoto wasn’t sure. His Master might not like his unsuccessful voyage.
“Rice enough for one person, is all I ask. I shall wait here while you get it for me. Rest assured.”
The door opened silently to one of the most beautiful girls Makoto had ever seen. Her eyes were wide open before they demurely turned towards his sandals. He slowly hid them under his habit. Her hair fell straight on her pale delicate forearm and such a union of the blackest black with the whitest white was divine, or as some in Japan say, the handiwork of the devil. Her voice was like the gurgling of the stream that stretches from the yawning caves of the mountains yonder into a widely awaiting parched earth. Such lips were those that cherry blossoms divided the redness amongst themselves and still failed to be redder than the pink that the world loved. Her kimono grew from a gentle ivory near the nape of her neck to a soft pink near her elbow, much like the blush that grew on her cherubic face having realised that she was now held in rapture. The scarf she wore made her skin seem more pale. She looked up to see a handsome bhiku with eyes as passionate as her tender heart.
“Please come in”
“Uh! A little rice is all I need.”
She bit her lower lip till he decided to step in.
“I shall bring you rice. There is fish too. Would you want some?”
“No, rice is all that my Master asked.”
She shuffled into the kitchen and returned with a large bowl of steaming hot rice. She placed it beside him and proceeded to fill his bowl with a small cup. Her hair and the scented rice mingled to intoxicate Makoto. He rose sharply.
“Thank you. You are very kind.”
He turned and left.
He ran into the dark night as fast as he could to get away from those eyes. From one black dream into another.
He entered the house and filled his Master’s bowl with rice.
“Master? Rice. Saburo-san’s family was very kind.”
“Hmmm. It took you a while.”
“Saburo-san’s daughter had her reservation in opening the house to strangers.”
“Hmmm. I forgot her name.”
“I am sorry Master. I hadn’t enquired.”
At length, Kazuo finished his bowl of rice and rose to leave for his inner chamber.
“Master. Pardon me for disturbing you.”
“Master, I wanted to know what is love.”
“You still don’t know?”
Makoto looked up and smiled. He bowed his head on the tatami and left the chamber.