I reached in the glass bowl and caught the goldfish. It hardly squirmed in my fist as I pulled it out.
I placed the fish on the table.
At first, it lie calm.
“Have no fear,” I told the fish. “For this is Zen.”
I observed the fish as it began to gasp. It began choking on the air as I might choke on water while drowning in the sea.
“Never mind the air,” I told the gulping fish. “For all is illusion.”
The fish began to panic, its mouth and gills flaring desperately. The fish began to frantically flop, starving for the water it needed to live.
“Detach,” I implored to the fish. “Detach from this fraud of a reality.”
The goldfish flopped and spasmed all over the table.
“Air and water are only illusions,” I told the frantic fish. “Comprehending the illusion of reality is the only way to enlightenment.”
Finally, the fish lay still, it’s gills and mouth no longer desperate for the water it craved.
I put the goldfish back in the bowl. It floated at the surface – its flowing, yellow and golden fins drooping lifeless.
With its soft, golden belly bobbing at the surface, I stared into the calm, dead eyes of the fish as it aloofly circled the bowl.
“Now you are enlightened,” I told it. “Now you know of Zen.”
For a moment I felt remorse for the death and suffering I imposed on the goldfish.
Then I realized, all is illusion. The fish is illusion, hence, so was its death, pain and suffering. As well as myself. I, too, am an illusion. Hence, so too was the remorse I felt for the pain and suffering I inflicted upon the poor fish.
Such is the splendor and convenience of all of corporeal existence being mere illusion. Such is the splendor and convenience of Zen and its pathway from bondage to freedom. In the case of the goldfish, freedom from its life and the torment I imposed on it. In my case, freedom from the bondage of my guilt for killing and tormenting that poor, innocent and defenseless creature.