The following are untamed outtakes from Zen Master Raven: Sayings and Doings of a Wise Bird.

Essential Nature


One early morning, Woodpecker flew in for a special meeting with Raven and asked, ”I’ve heard about essential nature, but I’m not sure what it is. Is it something that can be destroyed?”

Raven said, “That’s really a presumptuous question.”

Woodpecker ruffled her feathers a little and asked, “You mean I shouldn’t question the matter?”

Raven said, “You presume there is one.”


One night after a meeting, the Tallspruce community lingered in the dark under the stars, and Raven reminisced abour his time with Brown Bear. “I remember,” he said, “one day when I wasn’t feeling well, and Brown Bear Roshi had me rest in his cave. Somehow it was a special gathering place for mosquitoes. One of them suspended herself before my face. She was almost not there-so fragile, her long, thread-like legs hanging down motionless. I marveled that she was a living being with appetites and incentive, yet hardly more than gossamer.

zoo-logical2“In our surras we chant the lines, ‘Form is no other than emptiness; emptiness is no other than form.’ Sometime earlier, when I was looking up at the night sky, I thought I understood that passage, but when I was resting in Brown Bear’s lair and I felt that mosquito sink her long proboscis into my face, I was at last able to appreciate the mystery.”

At a Tallspruce parry, Porcupine cornered Raven and said, “I wanted to tell you that I’ve found that there is no basis for emptiness.” Raven looked startled, then he and Porcupine burst into laughter. ▼


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