If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Go Out for Coffee with Him

It has been written in the name of Master Linji, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.”

But what if you meet the Buddha on the sidewalk? What if you meet him in the parking lot? What if he’s sitting in a toll booth? Or what if you meet the Buddha in a convenience store? What are my obligations in those cases? What if you meet the Buddha, and he’s with his “entourage?” Supposing you run into the Buddha down at pub? Or you find yourself sitting next to him at the theatre, or at the movies? Does the time of day or evening have any bearing upon what you must do upon meeting the Buddha?

Furthermore, who, or what, is “The Buddha?” Are we speaking only of Shakyamuni? What about Bodhidarma? Or Wei Lang? Or Takuan Soho? Will any Arhat do? What about Bodhisattvas like Guanyin?

And the “meeting” of the Buddha– Are we discussing a chance encounter in public? Or are we discussing an intimate social engagement? Must this be a meeting in person? Or would online do just as well? If online, do we mean on a social networking site like Facebook, or a professional networking site like LinkedIn? Where would Skype fit into all this?

Is our obligation really to kill? To commit murder? Could we perhaps simply have a word with the Buddha? Perhaps chastise him? Or come to some sort of amicable settlement? Could we substitute a monetary penalty for the capital one? Or maybe a period of imprisonment, or community service? Would it be permissible to challenge the Buddha to a sparring match, fall or submission, best of a to-be-determined number of rounds? Could we challenge the Buddha to a drinking contest? Or a contest of improvisational stand-up comedy?

Talmudic scholars make terrible Zen Masters.

About Michael Butchin

I was born, according to the official records, in the Year of the Ram, under the Element of Fire, when Johnson ruled the land with a heavy heart; in the Cradle of Liberty, to a family of bohemians. I studied Chinese language and literature at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. I spent some years in Taiwan teaching kindergarten during the day, and ESOL during the evenings. I currently work as a faceless drone in a corporate call center, and am an unlikely martial artist. I have spent much of my life amongst actors, singers, movie stars, beautiful cultists, Taoist immortals, renegade monks, and at least one martial arts tzaddik. I currently reside in my dead grandparents’ house, alone, with an impressive collection of martial arts weapons, where I practice and train daily. I am not currently on any medications.
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