“How do I become enlightened?” asked the Seeker of his aged guru — a nut-brown, gnarled and wizened personage of indeterminate gender.
Sitting in padmasana on a large boulder on top of a high mountain, at first the Gnarly One treated the question with the stupefied silence it deserved. But the Seeker persisted, much to the Guru’s disgust and annoyance. Still the Nut-brown made no answer.
Still the Seeker persisted, until the Guru’s patience and forbearance evaporated, and ze quoth unto the Seeker, saying “if you want to know how to become enlightened, leave now, and address your question to each of the next five people you meet, from this moment on, henceforth to be precise.”
Dissatisfied and mumbling imprecations under his breath, the Seeker took leave of the Guru and made his stumbling way down the mountain.
At the foot of the mountain, he set his feet toward the dwelling place of his aged parents. On his way he came across an old woman sitting in the shade of a cinnabar tree.
“How do I become enlightened?” the Seeker asked, without even so much as a how-do-you-do.
“Get lost asshole!” replied the old woman. Which is what the Seeker proceeded to do — he chose a path along which he had never previously travelled, and after some time wandering through the foothills, became absolutely, totally, horribly lost.
The next person he met was a short and rather chubby man, with a twinkle in his eye and mischief in his heart. The twinkling man was sitting on a blanket in the middle of which was a large picnic basket. Behind the twinkler was a fork in the road and a signpost with two signs posted.
On the sinister sign, pointing to the left was the message: “Certain Death: 1 mile. Don’t go there.”
On the sign pointing dextrously to the right was the message, “Enlightenment: 1 mile. Welcome all.”
The Seeker’s spirits soared. At last, he was getting close to his goal. Just one more mile.
But then, a gust of wind caught the signs and they swivelled treacherously upon the signpost. When the wind subsided the signs were no longer pointing in the same direction they had before.
The Seeker was dismayed. Clearly the signs could not be relied upon in that wild and windy place. Blustery even.
“How do I become enlightened?” asked the Seeker of the chubby man. “Which way do I take to reach Nirvana?”
“I don’t answer questions,” replied the chubby man, Theosoph, a professional metaphysicist, “unless I get paid. It’s 10 sponduleks for yes/no answers, 100 for answers to open-ended questions.”
“But I have no money,” wailed the Seeker, “I have renounced the material world and rely on the Universe to meet my needs!”
“Well perhaps the Universe will answer your questions,” said Theosoph, but then seeing the Seeker’s upper lip begin to quiver, took pity on the poor lad, and continued in a gentler vein.
“Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll make a statement that does not respond directly to your question, and hence cannot be considered an answer.
“You can never become enlightened; for one thing, you’re just too rude. For another, becoming becomes you not. So, if you were to become enlightened, or become anything for that matter, then you would not be you, because you are unenlightened. You cannot not be you, so therefore you can never be enlightened.
“Oh, don’t look so cross and evilly at me through your gritty little Seeker eyes. Why not stay and have some lunch,” Theosoph indicated the picnic basket, “my family will be along shortly and they would love to eat you. And before they do you can ask them your question.”
The Seeker accepted the invitation and sat himself down on the blanket. Theosoph began unpacking the picnic basket. An unpleasant odour of charred meat wafted into the Seeker's nostrils. A short while later, two people came walking up the path, arm in arm: a teenage boy wearing a surly expression, and a pretty little woman in a pink blouse.
“Aha, finally,” said Theosoph, “Let me introduce my dear wife, Darla, the lamp of my life with a perfectly sodden wick, and my son, Ragnarok, a cruel and disturbing lad of whom little is said and much is whispered. One of them will answer your question. But be careful: one is an inveterate liar. And the other always tells the truth.
“I can’t tell you who the truth-teller is because the liar would get very angry with me. Besides, as I mentioned before, there’s the small matter of my professional fees.
“And one last thing: I’m hungry, and this picnic won’t eat itself you know. So you get just one question, before lunch. Just one. And afterwards we shall see what we shall see.”
The Seeker wracked his brains. He could only ask one question, so he had to make it a good one. And he could only ask it once, of either Darla or Ragnarok, one of whom was a liar.
After a while, his eyes lit up, and a gritty little smile crossed his face. Indicating the sinister way, the Seeker addressed his question to Ragnarok. “If I were to ask your mother if this way on my left is the way to enlightenment, what would she say?”
“Oh very good!” said Theosoph cheerily, clapping his pudgy little hands together.
Ragnarok thought for a short while, then grunted his reply, a nasty smirk on his lying lips: “She would say “No!”
“Well then,” said the Seeker, “that is the way I will go, for two wrongs do make a right sometimes!”
And off he went, prancing and dancing with spring in his step, a song in his heart, and a painful bunion on his big toe.
Not forty seconds after leaving Theosoph and his family to enjoy their picnic, the Seeker encountered the Gnarly One on zer way to the village to buy some brown rice.
“Not you again,” the Guru said crossly.
“Mastress!” exclaimed the Seeker. “You are the fifth person I have met today. How do I become enlightened?”
“Get back up that frackin’ mountain and wash my spare loincloth, fool!” replied the Guru, a look of resignation upon zer creased and marbled wagyu-face.