ever since the guru had left the village, gone into the hills, kicked the hermit out of her cave, and began the hard work of the book of zen, there have been those who cried, “where are the kōans?”
and had the guru not been in a cave in the hills, he would have replied, “write your kōans!” but he was in a cave in the hills, so he didn’t, and gradually, the guru’s students began to lose faith.
not that faith was something the guru had ever championed. “doubt!” he had always said. “doubt everything! even doubt!” and of course some people said that doubting doubt was faith, but some people will say anything.
but as the days went by and turned into moons, the guru’s students began to murmur, “well, maybe the guru has forgotten us, and turned his back on his school and his zen.”
“nonsense!” his true followers replied, “zenmas is coming! the guru will give us a kōan for zenmas!”
but of course the guru in his cave heard none of this. and he continued to work on the book and was just as oblivious as the villagers.
and the tortoise, knowing this was probably the case, traveled up into the hills to meet with the guru and tell him that his students were expecting a zenmas kōan, and not to disappoint them, because boy, do they seem angry.
but he was a tortoise, so he didn’t arrive until mid-summer, at which point he was much too late.
for zenmas eve came and went without the guru hearing anything about it, or writing anything except the book. that night, he fell asleep on his cave rock pillow, oblivious to the disaster which was rapidly approaching, for all of the guru’s students had felt — whether they knew it or not — that this was the guru’s last chance, and if zenmas came and went without a kōan, they would renounce the guru’s zen for good.
the next morning, the guru’s students sprung out of their beds and raced to their doors, opening them to discover…
a zenmas kōan, waiting for each of them!
and they all rejoiced, for this was proof that the guru had not abandoned them, but that they were still in his thoughts and his heart. and his most dedicated followers thought to themselves, “he has surprised me once again, that old guru.”
but no one was more surprised than the guru himself, who found a copy of the kōan on his cave floor. he read it and furrowed his brow and said, “it could have been better.”
happy zenmas, kōaunists.