The Court Jester


Here is another Zen parable for you.  As with my previous post, I’m putting my own spin on it.

A king became exasperated with his court jester, who simply wouldn’t stop jesting.  Seemingly every minute of every day, the jester would be cracking jokes and playing the fool.  Eventually, the king decided he’d had enough and he condemned the jester to be hanged; ordering that he be taken to the dungeon to await his fate.  The day of the execution arrived and the king started to have second thoughts.  He felt that good court jesters were hard to come by, and after all, the poor bloke had only been doing his job.  But the king also felt that he couldn’t go back to the way things were, so he wrote out the royal pardon on official parchment and added the condition that the jester was not allowed to ever crack a joke again.  He put the royal seal on it and gave it to one of his courtiers to take to the executioner.  The courtier ran to the gallows, and arrived in the nick of time to see the jester already standing on the trap door with the noose around his neck.  The courtier blurted out that the king had changed his mind and that the execution should be halted; he then proceeded to read out the pardon.  As the reading of the pardon came to an end, the jester just couldn’t contain himself and quipped, “no noose is good news”.  He was hanged.

Of course that rather amusing story isn’t actually true, but it aptly explains how we function in accordance with our conditioning, as opposed to our true nature.  When we are born into this world, we are pure, open and still aware of the love that we are.  Gradually, as the years pass, we become conditioned; we are told that we are good or bad, beautiful or ugly, intelligent or thick etc, etc; and we become what we believe (or at least we THINK we have become what we believe).  Then we enter adulthood and we get a job or career, adding that to “who I am” as we go along.  In the case of the jester, “jestering” was what he did, it was not who he was.  However, he was not able to drop the egoic belief that, “I am a jester”, so when the opportunity arose, he couldn’t resist the quip and was promptly executed.

Whether you are an ugly professor, a beautiful cleaner or a good retail assistant, the professor, the cleaner and the retail assistant are what you DO, they are not who you are.  As to whether you are ugly, beautiful, good or bad, these are only judgements made by other people that you may or may not believe.  They are also not who you are and do not have to define you.  So, in life don’t be a silly jester; or the joke will be on you!

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The Man On The Hill

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As you know, if we see a snowflake in the UK the whole country grinds to a halt, and today we have a little more than that (hope you like the pics and short video of my back garden).  So, it is appropriate, that since my place of work sits up on high ground six miles from here, and my place of work is shut because of the snow, I have got the chance to write a blog post called, “The Man On The Hill”.  It is an old Zen parable, but I have put my own spin on it and will relate it in my own way of speaking.

Three friends were out walking, and in the distance, high up on a hill, they could see a man, seemingly just standing there.  As they walked, they started to speculate amongst themselves as to what he was doing.  The first man said, “I think he is looking for his dog”.  The second man said, “no, I think he is looking for his friend”.  The third man said, “no, you are both wrong, I think he is just getting some fresh air”.  As they walked, they continued to have the discussion and eventually they found themselves following the path leading up the hill.

After a while they reached where the man was standing and curiosity got the better of them.  “Excuse me”, said the first man, “but we couldn’t help but wonder what you are doing, are you looking for your dog”?  “No, I’m not”, came the reply.  The second man spoke up, “then are you looking for your friend”?  “No”, came the reply again.  The third man then asked, “are you just enjoying the fresh air”?  For the third time, the man answered, “no I’m not”.  The three friends, completely baffled, then asked, “If you are not engaged in any of those things can you please tell us what you are doing”?  “I’m just standing”, replied the man.

“Just standing”, could be “just chopping wood”, “just washing up”, “just cutting the grass”, but what the man is really saying is, “I’m just being”.  The three friends are typical of the monkey-like chatter of the egoic mind.  It didn’t even occur to them that the man could be “just standing”, they had to pigeonhole what he was doing.  So, they created several imaginary stories as they speculated their way along the path.  It is no    coincidence that there are three of them; the three friends being symbolic of the holy trinity of the physical world.  We can also relate the three friends to the three states that we experience in this world of matter; waking, dream and deep sleep.  The man “just standing” represents the “God-state” of Turiya, which exists beyond all triads.

This is what makes Zen so wonderfully unique in relation to other religions.  Zen, “The Experience of Pure Knowing”, will awaken within you when you are ready.  A Zen master will simply give you the key to open up the knowing that has always existed within you.  Whereas, a teacher of religion will fill your head with knowledge based on the past.  Knowledge = Non-sense; Knowing = God-sense.

I will just finish off by sharing with you something rather ironic that occurred to me as I was pondering writing this post.  All the great spiritual masters who founded the religions of the world, were exceptional souls who broke the mould.  They did not follow the crowd; on the contrary, they were inspirational leaders and exceptional individuals.  But to be a follower of an organised religion means that you have to be the exact opposite of the religion’s founder; in other words you have to conform to convention.  To be a Christian for example, you have to be an Anti-Christ, you have to become a sheep and follow the crowd.  Christ himself did not advocate hierarchy; all were equal in his eyes.  Now there are hundreds and hundreds of Christian cults and sects, all run by committees and people (mainly men) with titles, who dictate to the masses in accordance with their own limited understanding.  This is an indication of the man-made, egoic nature of organised religion.  I have written many times about this.  The spirit evolves via the adventure of experience, not by conforming to outdated, fear-based, man-made rules, regulations and rituals.  CAN I GET AN AMEN?  Maybe not…