The Report 

A novice was sent out by the old master to gather information on a stranger who had taken up residence in an abandoned temple nearby and was giving lessons in the law. When the novice came back, he found the old master ready to practice calligraphy. Master, said the novice, things are terrible over there. The stranger is an idiot! Not only is he an inveterate smoker, calling his tobacco time blowing meditation, he is a clueless daydreamer, watching clouds all day and practicing his poor penmanship. Then he teaches utter nonsense, mixing song lyrics into quotes from the koans and sutras, mixing up his metaphors, and getting his proverbs backwards! Interesting, the master sighed. What does he say? Oh, all kinds of nonsense, the disciple exclaimed, and began to list the verbal atrocities, which the master copied down on his fresh paper as he listened. The earth is slow but the oxen are impatient. To meet a buddha in heaven. To head west you must travel north. Clutching the footprints of a stray dog in times of disaster. Only whores eat cold rice. The river of a thousand leagues is a thousand leagues. A spark is lighting. I don’t even know what this means! I am sure he is a peasant or a disgraced, masterless swordsman of low rank only pretending to be a teacher! The novice clutched his head in anguish. Do not worry, the old master laughed, I will bring him to justice. And the following day, the old master traveled to the once abandoned temple to bring the stranger the award of a dragon staff and a parcel of mugwort-flavoured rice cakes. 

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