This story is from the book “Walking in Zen, Sitting in Zen” and its obviously a Zen story !
“Two temples were traditionally antagonistic to each other. Both priests had a small boy to run errands and both priests told the boys, ‘Don’t talk to the boy from the other temple. We are enemies!’ They were afraid that boys being, after all, boys they may start becoming friendly to each other. If the priest had not said anything they may not have thought about it, but when they insisted that they should not talk to each other, of course, the temptation was too great.
So one day, one boy asked the other boy when they met on the road, ‘Where are you going?’. The other boy said, ‘Wherever the wind takes me.’ Listening to philosophical discussions and discourses, he had also become philosophical. The other boy was almost dumb. He could not think what to say now. And then he thought, ‘My Master is right – these people are dangerous! I am asking a simple question, ‘Where are you going?’ and he is talking metaphysics!’
He went back. He told the Master, ‘I am sorry that I didn’t obey you, but this has happened.’ The Master said, ‘This is very bad – we have to defeat him! It has never been so. We have always been victorious in every argument with the other temple. So tomorrow you ask him again, ‘Where are you going?’ and when he says, ‘Wherever the wind takes me,’ ask him, ‘And if the wind is not blowing at all, then?’
The boy was very happy! He arrived a little earlier, stood there, waited, and repeated many times what he was going to say to become perfectly clear about it. The other boy came and he asked, ‘Where are you going?’ And the other boy said, ‘Wherever my feet take me.’ Now the answer was irrelevant; whatsoever he had prepared was meaningless. He was again at a loss. He asked the Master again. The Master said, ‘Those people are cunning and crafty! Now, whenever he says, ‘Wherever my feet take me,’ you ask him, ‘If you were born paralysed, then what ?’
Again the boy came. He asked, ‘Where are you going?’ And the boy said, ‘I am going to fetch vegetables.’
Life is like that. You come with a prepared question and it changes, it says, ‘I am going to fetch vegetables.’ No prepared answer is going to help. Knowledge is not going to help as far as life is concerned. The knowledgeable person is almost a dead person; he lives in his grave.
Come out of your graves! Live more spontaneously, more responsibly. Respond to the moment. Listen to the moment and act accordingly. Then your act will be total because it will arise out of the present; it will reflect the actual situation. It will be really meaningful, significant, satisfying, fulfilling. And you will find that you are no longer missing. You are in step with life, you are in harmony with life.
Innocence is always in harmony with life. And to be harmonious is to be enlightened. To be harmonious is the only way to know the ultimate truth.”
My two bit – All the knowledge we acquire doesn’t help because the questions or answers are “out of syllabus”. Living in the moment, living in the present is the right thing… but are we in the present ? I catch myself thinking about the past or the future more often than the present. I am either planning something in the future or reminiscing about something that had happened in the past, and very rarely am in the present.
A good reminder to try and stay in the present. Thank you beloved Master.