Zen and the Nature of Quality

To understand perfection, one must improve upon it.

An AI-generated painting in traditional Japanese style of a student making notes on a scroll.
A student making notes on a scroll. Image generated with AI by DALL-E.

“Master,” said the student, “I just read ‘The Tale of Genji’ and I am so impressed by it.”

“It is a splendid book indeed,” said the Master. “I’m happy that you liked it.”

“I did, Master. But what makes it so good, I’d like to know?”

“Ah, that is not an easy question, my Son. It takes hard work to find the answer.”

“I would like to try, Master,” said the student.

“Very well,” said the Master. “Then, you must improve it.”

"Improve ‘The Tale of Genji’, Master? How is that even possible? And would it not be disrespectful?

“On the contrary, my child. Just get to work, and you will see.”

The student thanked the Master, greeted, and left.

When the student came back, he seemed aghast.

“Master, I spent hours trying improvements, but for nothing. The story seemed to fall apart with any change I made. If I can’t improve it, as you told me, how can I ever grasp its greatness?”

But the Master merely smiled.

At that moment, the student was Enlightened.

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