Wolves at the Gate

A college professor, new to the concepts of Zen, came to study with Zen master Nan-in. His first week was tense for both men as the professor asked many intricate questions and found them unanswered time and again.

After ten days of this treatment, he exploded at Nan-in, “I have been here over a week with serious questions as to the nature of Zen! Instead of answering me, you deflect my questions with inane stories and meaningless banter! I begin to believe this whole thing is a sham! There is nothing to Zen but pithy stories and tiresome prattle!”

Nan-in said nothing, but, taking the professor by the elbow, led him to a gate at one end of the Zen garden.

“Beyond this gate,” Nan-in said, “is a wood filled with ravenous wolves. Every night, the wolves come baying at the gate. We repel them by tossing them scraps of meat. This satiates them, but they return every night because they have lost the ability to hunt for themselves. Scraps of meat will never truly satisfy an animal that craves the hunt.”

The professor was astonished as enlightenment filled his body. He fell to the ground weeping and thanked Nan-in for helping him find his way on the path.

Later, Nan-in was talking with another master.

“I noticed that professor has stopped bothering us with questions.”

“Yeah, I threatened to throw him to the wolves and I guess that freaked him out enough to shut him up.”

“Whatever works.”

“Yep. Zen for life?”

“Zen for life!”

And they high-fived.

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