Zen Koans Explained: "Soldiers of Humanity"

The concept of "wisdom" is often thought of something that straddles the corporeal-ethereal border, a sort of empyrean package that we "carry" in our minds. Those who truly possess wisdom, though, will tell you that it's more like a horse.

The koan: "Soldiers of Humanity"

Once a division of the Japanese army was engaged in a sham battle, and some of the officers found it necessary to make their headquarters in Gasan's temple.

Gasan told his cook: "Let the officers have only the same simple fare we eat."

This made the army men angry, as they were used to very deferential treatment. One came to Gasan and said: "Who do you think we are? We are soldiers, sacrificing our lives for our country. Why don't you treat us accordingly?"

Gasan answered sternly: "Who do you think we are? We are soldiers of humanity, aiming to save all sentient beings."

The enlightenment: "Okay, but seriously—you guys don't even march," the soldier said. "We're always marching around. We get hungry, you know?"

Gasan couldn't argue with this. "Look, I'd love to offer you guys something better, but the truth is, this is all we have. Rice. That's basically it." There was an uncomfortable silence. "Hell," Gasan added hastily, "I wish we had some Chipotle up in here!"

The soldier chuckled. "Hey man, if I get out of this thing alive— Chipotle. Me and you. All the burritos we can eat. Okay?" Gasan's face warmed into a smile. "Okay. It's a date."

The soldier got killed though.

This has been "Zen Koans Explained." Hair is stranding.

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