This is another entry into the Koan Kontest at Obotski Central. Because of it’s length, and the fact that it kind of sums up the whole issue, I have made it a separate post. The original Koans I did are a few entries back from this one. Like the others, this will probably fly right over the heads of the Obotski, because they are limited in thinking New Thoughts. Here is where you can find the contest:
The Vine of Much Itching
Once, as a Master instructed a group of acolytes by Koan, one of them inquired why the Master recited to them the Koans of The Master of Dung, and of The Ship of Village Idiots, and of The Wisdom of Feet, yet did not instruct them in the Greatest of All Koans, The Vine of Much Itching. This Koan was known by the learned and un-learned alike, under one name or another, and all had oft heard the story since the age of children. The Master directed the acolyte to relate the tale, in his own manner, and thus:
Once, in the corner of the garden of newly appointed Prefect, the Palace Gardener noticed a small vine growing, a vine known by many names – The Vine of Misery, The Vine of Skin Bubbles, but most often, The Vine of Much Itching. Tales of this vine were so ancient, and so ubiquitous, that the great Fu Xi himself had indeed written of it, The Book of Itching, believing that Great Divinations could be had simply from the study thereof. The Prefect, supposedly a Man of Great Wisdom, instructed the Gardener to simply cut off the vine at the ground. The Gardener obeyed, leaving the root of the Vine in the ground.
When the Vine re-grew, as indeed it did to great degree, the Prefect ignored it, and all entreaties to uproot the Vine. Soon, the Misery was great among the dwellers of the Palace, for lo, did all passing the Vine swear that the very air itself would afflict them with the poisonous oil. But, still the Prefect did not order the uprooting and burning of the Vine, said refusal being the reason for much curiosity and speculation.
Some, among those who were never pleased with the appointment of the Prefect, thought the reason to be Foolish Pride, wherein the Prefect would not admit his error in not properly disposing of the Vine. Others, that the Prefect was not a man of Wisdom after all, but merely a Fool in robes of authority, while still others mused that the Prefect, being born in a different Province, was simply unaware of the nature of the Vine.
Still others, versed in the ways of political intrigue, voiced with certainty that the Prefect intended to confound those not close to him with miserable scratching. And, those who were most faithful to the Prefect, and close to him in their daily duties, mocked the doubters with derision, and defended their Lord, swearing that the Prefect had already disposed of the Vine, and that verily there was no need to do aught else, even while scratching furiously themselves, and wailing in grief. Finally, after well nigh three years of suffering, the Prefect, who himself had finally been touched by the Itch, and whose Ministers could barely carry on their duties for the constant scratching, moaning, and putting on of tinctures, ordered the Vine be uprooted and burned.
However, even after destruction, the Vine continued to afflict, for it had propagated by way of sprigs and berries, and those previously infected were made even more susceptible to the poison. Even those who scratched not, had lost confidence in the Prefect. Because of this, the province suffered, and the Prefect was recalled by the Emperor to serve in small and sundry ways, where he could do little harm.
Thus ended the acolyte’s telling of the tale, and all awaited the words of The Master. The Master spoke saying, verily, that this was the Greatest of Koans, and one from which much knowledge could be gleaned. And, that all the Koans taught thus far, were but small kernels of enlightenment which the acolytes must take in to fully understand the Vine of Much Itching, for the Vine itself was not the true source of the Great Misery and Suffering that befell the province.