A man approached the master and asked, “Is there a God?”
“Of course,” said the Master.
A year later, the man came again and asked the same question.
“No, I don’t think so,” said the Master.
Yet another year later, the man came and asked the question once more.
The master did not answer but simply smiled.
Then the man said, “At last, I have caught you. You are a charlatan. For three years I have asked you the same question. You probably have not remembered but you once answered ‘yes’ and at another time, ‘no’, and now you simply smile and say nothing. If you really knew the truth, you would not have kept changing your answers.”
The master then led the man to a river and asked, “Look at the river, my friend. This river is not the same river as it was last year. It is not even the same river that it was a moment ago. It is ever-flowing, ever-moving, ever-changing.”
“When I give you an answer, I am not answering your question. I am answering YOU. In a year’s time, many things have happened and you have changed. The way you look at things have changed. The way you think has changed. The way you understand has changed. I, too, have changed much in this time. That is why I cannot keep on giving you the same answer every year. The nature of the question changes because the nature of the questioner has changed. The answer changes because the nature of the one answering has changed.”
“Remember, I am not a piece of dead scripture that you can open and expect to read the same thing every time.”
Two monks had taken a strict vow of celibacy which forbade them to touch a woman, even in the slightest of gestures.
One day, while taking a contemplative walk through the woods, they came upon a river. As they were about to cross, a woman lying on the riverbank called out to them. “Please sirs, I have twisted my ankle and need to get across the river to my home in the village. Would you be kind enough to carry me across?”
The first monk began to respond about how this was impossible given their vow but to his surprise, the second monk had already bent down, carried the woman on his back, and started wading through the strong currents.
They made it across the river and to the woman’s village where the second monk left her with the village doctor. The two monks then resumed their trek through the woods.
After two hours, the first monk said, “Brother, I have to talk to you. I cannot stand it anymore. I am so disturbed by what you did back there. Why did you carry the woman? Have you forgotten our sacred vow? Does it have no meaning for you? Our superior has told us that we must not even graze a single strand of a woman’s hair, and yet here you are brazenly carrying one across your back!”
The second monk replied, “Brother, I left the woman in her village two hours ago. Why do you still carry her?”
One day, a philosopher went to visit Master Nan-in to discuss zen with him. During the discussion, the philosopher would ask questions and as Nan-in began to answer, the philosopher would butt in with another question or would start sharing his own insights.
After this happened for two or three times, Nan-in took the teapot and started pouring tea into the philosopher’s cup (which was still full because he had kept talking).
The cup overflowed and the tea started spilling on the table and onto the floor.
The philosopher jumped up and said, “Stop it! The cup can take no more tea.”
Nan-in promptly stopped pouring and looked at the philosopher squarely. “The cup can take no more tea because it is full. Your head can take nothing from me because it is full of your own ideas.”
“If you would learn from me, sir, please empty your cup first.”
When the sage points to the moon, the idiot looks at the finger.”
Experts come and study the nature of the finger. They form theories and doctrines around it. They organize the Church of the Finger and create rules and laws about how the finger should point, when it should point and in what angle it should point.
Amidst all this, they do not see the moon.
Scriptures and religions are all pointers. The Bible is not God, and the Koran is not God. People have built entire belief systems and organizations, have fought wars and endured torture and hardships, for the sake of furthering their beliefs.