Bhante Splendid, Dog'rel Roshi, and The Zen Cow

Tales of The Zen Pig Farmer

B. Splendid
with thanks to Raj Pande


The Zen Pig Farmer went out to slop the hogs one day. He poured the slop into the trough, and the pigs came quickly and started eating. He stood and watched. After a bit, one pig looked up at him. Licking slop from its chin, it said, "You know, every day you come here and bring us our food. All we do is lie around and eat, yet you see to all our needs. Why do you do this?" The Zen Pig Farmer stroked his beard slowly and said, "They call me The Zen Pig Farmer because of what I do." The pig went back to eating.

A little later the pig looked up again. It said, "Did you ever consider that maybe you are called The Zen Pig Farmer because you are a pig farmer and I am the Zen Pig?"

The farmer said, "Um... no..."

--5 June 96


One evening the Zen Pig Farmer was out in his vegetable garden picking a salad. A young man walked up to the fence. "Hi!" said the young man. The Zen Pig Farmer stood up, bowed, and then bent down again and continued picking lettuce.

The young man hopped over the fence and sat down on the ground. "I'm Ralph," he said. The Zen Pig Farmer moved on and plucked a couple of cherry tomatoes, and said nothing. "Who are you?"

"I am known as the Zen Pig Farmer," said the farmer, looking at one of the tomatoes in his hand.

"Hm," said Ralph. The farmer put the tomatoes in his basket, and inspected a row of carrots.

Ralph said, "But are you a Zen Pig Farmer?"

The Zen Pig Farmer threw a small stone over the fence, and squinted at the sun for a moment. "I am what I am," he replied. He went back to the carrots.

The farmer felt the carrot tops for a little while. Then he skipped them and moved on to the spinach.

Suddenly Ralph stood up. "Ah! I get it. You're Popeye!"

The Zen Pig Farmer invited him in to dinner.

--11 June 96


One morning, after milking the cow, the Zen Pig Farmer led the cow out to the pigsty. When he reached the gate, he said to the cow, loudly, so the pig could hear, "Hey, cow. Do pigs have Buddha nature?" Then he reached back and pulled the cow's tail.

"MUUUUUUU," said the cow.

The Zen Pig Farmer laughed and laughed. The cow wandered off. The pig walked to the other side of the sty and sat down in the mud.

--18 June 96


The Zen Pig Farmer belonged to the New Age Book Of The Month Club. He bought a lot of books, and every evening he sat down in his library and read before going to bed. But usually by the end of a long day of physical labor, he was very tired, so he only made it through a few pages at a time before he fell asleep in his chair. So, the pile of books grew taller.

One evening, though, when the Zen Pig Farmer went to sit in his chair and read a few pages, he noticed that the pile of books looked a little smaller than it used to. "I must be making some progress," he thought.

A couple of evenings later, when the Zen Pig Farmer went into his library, there were only four books left on the pile. "Hm," he thought, "I know there were more books than that yesterday. I haven't finished one in weeks."

That day he had taken an inadvertent nap during his afternoon meditation, so he wasn't as sleepy as usual. While he was just beginning to get drowsy, he heard a noise at the door. He opened his eyes, and saw one of his chickens walking in the room and over to his pile of books. She looked at the farmer, but he pretended he was sleeping.

The chicken took a book under one wing. "Book, book," she said. She took another under the other wing. "Book, book," she said again. Then she walked out, mumbling to herself, "Book book, book book."

The farmer followed her at a discreet distance. She went out to the frog pond, huffing a little with the effort of carrying the books, which were heavy with Dharma. When she arrived there, she called out to the frog, "Book, book!" The frog, sitting on a lily pad in the middle of the pond, made no reply.

Then she heaved each of the books into the pond, calling out "Book book! Book book!"

As each book sailed past him, the frog replied, "Reddit. Reddit."

The ripples slowly died away on the pond.

Then the chicken turned around and saw the Zen Pig Farmer. "Ohhww..." she mumbled. They considered each other. Then she looked down, pecked at something on the ground for a moment or two, then wandered off.

The Zen Pig Farmer went back inside and cancelled his subscription to the book club.

--25 June 96


One day, the Zen Pig Farmer went for a walk up the creek that ran by the farm. The path that went next to the water was cool and shady. He liked looking at the places where the moving water had worn away the rocks on the banks.

When he got up to the beaver dam, he stopped and sat down on the bank to meditate. After a short time, he heard a noise behind him, and turned around to look. A few yards away, a beaver was chewing on the base of a tree.

The tree was particularly old and massive, and its trunk was wider than the beaver was long. The beaver had only chewed away a little of the trunk. It worked steadily, making loud tree-trunk-chewing noises.

After a while, the Zen Pig Farmer decided to go back to the farm and sit where it was quieter.

When he was out of sight, the beaver turned and listened to him go. Then it chuckled to itself, and went back to chewing.

--2 July 96


The Zen Pig Farmer returned to the beaver dam some days later. The beaver was nowhere to be seen, but the base of the tree had been worn away significantly. As he was inspecting it, a light breeze picked up, and swayed the massive trunk. It started to creak, and then crick, and then crack crack CRACK--

The Zen Pig Farmer jumped back just in time to avoid being struck by one of the limbs of the falling tree.

As he brushed the leaves and debris off himself, and the forest birds and insects began to return to their usual murmur, he saw a beaver coming out of the beaver lodge and approaching him. The beaver shuffled past him, up to the base of the tree, and sniffed it a few times. Then it moved a little way up the fallen trunk and started chewing in a new place.

The Zen Pig Farmer said to himself, "What patience!"

The beaver looked up at him for a moment, and said, "Nothing special."

The Zen Pig Farmer watched the beaver chewing until dusk, and then went back home.

--9 July 96


Ralph came to visit The Zen Pig Farmer. They had sake.

The Zen Pig Farmer said, "The other day a tree fell in the forest, when I was right there."

Ralph said, "Wow--what a coincidence. Hey, did it make a sound?"

The Zen Pig Farmer sat for a moment.

"I... I can't remember," he said.

They had more sake.

--27 August 96


The next morning The Zen Pig Farmer woke up with a big headache.

He groaned and felt his head gingerly.

"Too much sake," he said.

--3 September 96


Ralph came over to the Zen Pig Farmer's one day and the Zen Pig Farmer wasn't in the house. He went out to the fields to look for him.

Finally he caught sight of the Zen Pig Farmer sitting on the top of a short rise. As he approached, he realized that the Zen Pig Farmer was floating a little ways above the ground as he sat in silent meditation.

He ran up. "Wow!" he said.

The Zen Pig Farmer plopped down to the ground and opened his eyes. "What the hell?" he said.

"Popeye! That's so cool! All this time I didn't know you were really enlightened!"

The Zen Pig Farmer jumped up from his seat and began to walk quickly back to the house. "First of all, don't interrupt me while I'm sitting unless something's on fire.

"Secondly: I run a profitable, certified organic, livestock and vegetable farm all by myself, including consistently good crops of corn, uniformly luscious tomatoes, and a really fine pig, and not only make ends meet but feed you dinner every other night of the week and find time to take long walks, and you're impressed because I can levitate?"

Ralph said, "Oh." He walked quickly to keep up with the Zen Pig Farmer. "Sorry."

As they neared the house, he said, "But could you teach me to do that?"


--10 September 96


The Zen Pig Farmer was weeding his garden. Ralph was leaning on the fence watching.

"Popeye, what's enlightenment like?"

The Zen Pig Farmer shook dirt out of the roots of a weed. "It's just like this."

"Just like what?"

The Zen Pig Farmer gestured around. "Like this. Except you don't wonder what enlightenment is like."

He went back to weeding.

--24 February 97


Ralph said, "No, really, Popeye. What's enlightenment like?"

The Zen Pig Farmer shrugged and said, "How should I know what it's like?"

"But I thought you were enlightened."

"What do you mean by 'enlightened'?"

Ralph shook his head. "Jeez, I don't know. You know, enlightened."

The Zen Pig Farmer straightened up and looked at Ralph. "What's it like to be alive?"

Ralph thought. "Well... It's... I mean... Compared to what?"

The Zen Pig Farmer looked at Ralph some more, with his eyebrows still raised.

Then he squatted down again and reached for another weed. "You got me there."

--14 April 97


The Zen Pig Farmer lay on his back, watching the clouds. Ralph watched the Zen Pig Farmer for a while. Neither of them moved. After a while, Ralph got bored and lay down and watched the clouds too.

Ralph said, "Hey, Popeye--Doesn't that one look like the Buddha?"

The Zen Pig farmer reached over and punched him in the arm.

"Ow! What was that for?"

"There was a mosquito."

At that moment, Ralph said, "Oh."

--2 July 97