Having spoken informally, in a cringingly nervous and offputting attempt at the easy badinage of one learned colleague with another, the Novice flinched then winced then cowered behind the large laundry basket that doubled as a small laundry basket on top of another.
“If that’s what you’ve derived from the Teachings,” quoth the aged Guru, imperturbably eating a banana,” then you have derived yourself. Ex nihilo nihil fit. As it is written, so shall it be...”
“But Mastress, if I am not for myself, who is?” implored the Novice piteously, “and if not now, then when?”
“Nobody, never. Or everybody always. Now go sweep the stair. Perhaps you’ll meet a man who isn’t there. If only he were you,” grumbled the Nut-brown querulously, dugs flapping mysteriously in a windless breeze.
The Novice shone his dewy eyes upon the wattled face of the Gnarly One, and wailed his consternation thusly, “Oh Mastress, fill up mine empty mindskull with thy wizened wisdom, for I am lost and cannot find myself, no way!”
“Better start looking, so be off with you then. And on your way out boil me a pot of that yak-buttered tea,” spake the sun-bronzed Guru, visage creased and cracked like a dried-up riverbed.
Eyes bulging furiously in concentration, the Novice shuffled from foot to foot, sheepish as a titted bull. “If finding myself is not important, Mastress, shall I instead meditate upon the nucleus of the tathagata or the mystery of the suchness?”
The Guru’s gnarled and knuckly fingers dug for fleas within the sandy rumples of a desert loincloth laying limp and loose upon ungendered loins.
“Page 47,” murmured the Nut-brown, “of the book that is read in the highest places, and I quoth: ‘Do not meditate, for there is nothing on which to meditate’. Unless you bring a cushion, or at least a yoga rug. That Lotus position wreaks merry hell upon ones nether regions.”
“Well then shall I practise renunciation,” quivered the Novice, “shall I mortify the flesh upon a pole or self-flagellate until my back streameth with blood?”
“What have you got against Poles?” muttered the Wattled One, “they make great beer. And great Pirozhki. Fried buns if you didn’t know.”
But the Novice hadn’t heard, nor seen the warning glint in the Nut-brown’s rheumy eye. It was a noisy glint but failed to halt the yammering of a Novice in full spate:
“What shall I do zen Mastress? Shall I listen for the sound of one hand clapping?”
“No, rather listen for the sound of one buttock farting,” smirked the Gnarly one, “on your way to the kitchen. There’s a blob of yak butter with my name on it. You can moan a koan on your way back, if that floats your boat.“
And on that gnomic pronouncement, the life of the Novice began swirling anti-clockwise around and down the Plug-hole of Nothingness into the Drain of Death that empties into the Wasteponds of Failed Transmutation. As it was written, so shall it have been.