A zen master was meditating on a patch of dirt when a stray dog approached him and began sniffing the ground around the master’s legs.
“My friend,” the master said to the dog, “we are not so different. You spend your life scrounging for food on the ground while I spend my life scrounging for enlightenment in the dirt. Perhaps if we both raised our eyes, we would find that what we seek is right in front of us.”
The dog looked up at the master and then continued his sniffing.
“What I mean to say,” said the master, “is that what we seek is perhaps not always where we look. Sometimes we have to stop looking to find what we seek.”
The dog kept sniffing the ground around the master.
“It’s like, if you’re looking for a quill and you know you saw one – like one that’s always around when you don’t need it – but you really need a quill now and, you know, you can’t find it? Sometimes you have to stop looking for it and then an hour or so later, you’ll stumble on it?”
“And then you can’t even remember what you wanted it for?” asked the dog.
“Right, right. That happened the other day; I was – HEY!” The master stood up. Had that dog just spoken to him? What was going on?
But, the dog had startled at the master’s cry and was running off.
“Hey!” called the master, “Hey, come back! Did you just talk?!”
A young student was passing at that moment and the master grabbed him by the robe.
“Can you catch that dog?! That dog just talked to me! I swear that dog just talked to me!”
The student thought, “Is this a test? Like, a zen test?”
“A talking dog,” said the student, “Is like … searching for enlightenment? It will only come to you when you … stop … yelling at it?”
“No, no!” screamed the master, “That dog talked to me! He made a joke!”
“Uh,” said the student, “true inner peace is as the joking dog? We laugh at the absurdity of it and … panic when we find it?”
“Son of a -” yelled the master and he took off after the dog.
The student did not achieve enlightenment that day.