When I mentioned the other day that I would be looking for gems in the pile of boxes I’m sorting through, this cartoon was one item I had in mind. Forty or more years ago I cut it out and hung it over my office desk. Don’t ask me why. I couldn’t tell you, any more than I could explain what it means (if anything).
Buddhists bless each other with Three Gems: the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha (community). Daoists also have three gems: pity, frugality, and humility. Where these two outlooks intersect in Chan (Zen), we find another and perhaps most valuable treasure: laughing at the absurd.
Linji, one of the founders of the Rinzai school of Zen, is famous for advising: If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill the Buddha! A few years ago I posted an essay here in which Linji’s advice helped clarify my reflections on death. Now I’m less concerned with making sense of life and death, and more interested in laughing at a world in which Rubber Ducky is the Buddha.