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.