The Zen of Peeling Mangoes

The notion of complete absorption in the moment, is not so common these days. We have one eye on the ‘phone, we may do things whilst watching TV or having a conversation. But we do not focus as much as much as we might. I do a fair bit of cooking and consistent with my travels, mangoes often feature. This is good because it enables me to practise the zen of peeling mangoes. The riper the mango the more tricky it is to peel. My sister used to say that the only clean way to eat a mango is in the bath, whilst bathing.

If you are to get the most out of peeling, you need to use a knife and not a peeler. The idea is to take the skin off in one whole piece. To do this you have to be focussed, calm and unhurried. One starts at the top and slowly works around and down. You have to gauge the thickness and depth of the cut. Too thin and the peel will split, too thick and you can’t get that nice circular feeling needed. You will end up with an asymmetry and this too causes the peel to break. When you first start peeling mangoes, chances are that you won’t be able to take the peel off in one thread. It is not you against the mango, it is you with the mango. It is not there to be conquered. As you progress the mango will get ever more slippery in your hand and to keep hold of it you need to adjust the grip, too slack and the mango drops, too tight and it shoots out of your hand. It must not be rushed, for that is the sure-fire way for the peel to break. It is not a race, it is an experience, the zen of peeling mangoes. The ones which are bigger than the clenched fist of a large man are the best for this.

Whilst you do this you get the touch of the mango skin, the juice and that lovely fresh mango smell.

Try this, the zen of peeling mangoes, it works with other things, but my experience is that mangoes are best.

Without Words, Without Silence

A monk asked Fuketsu: “Without speaking, without silence, how can you express the truth?”

Fuketsu observed: “I always remember springtime in southern China. The birds sing among innumerable kinds of fragrant flowers.”

Mumon’s comment: Fuketsu used to have lightning Zen. Whenever he had the opportunity, he flashed it. But this time he failed to do so and only borrowed from an old Chinese poem. Never mind Fuketsu’s Zen. If you want to express the truth, throw out your words, throw out your silence, and tell me about your own Zen.


        Without revealing his own penetration,

        He offered another’s words, not his to give.

        Had he chattered on and on,

        Even his listeners would have been embarrassed.


Excerpted from the Gateless Gate


Robert M. Pirsig Quotes

From :  “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values” 

“What is in mind is a sort of Chautauqua…that’s the only name I can think of for it…like the traveling tent-show Chautauquas that used to move across America, this America, the one that we are now in, an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer.”


“And what is good, Phaedrus,

And what is not good—

Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?”


“The pencil is mightier than the pen.”


“Care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who’s bound to have some characteristic of quality.”


When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called a Religion.”


“We’re in such a hurry most of the time we never get much chance to talk. The result is a kind of endless day-to-day shallowness, a monotony that leaves a person wondering years later where all the time went and sorry that it’s all gone.”


“The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha – which is to demean oneself.”


“Your common sense is nothing more than the voices of thousands and thousands of these ghosts from the past.”

Tozan’s Three Pounds

A monk asked Tozan when he was weighing some flax: “What is Buddha?”

Tozan said: “This flax weighs three pounds.”

Mumon’s comment: Old Tozan’s Zen is like a clam. The minute the shell opens you see the whole inside. However, I want to ask you: Do you see the real Tozan?

        Three pounds of flax in front of your nose,

        Close enough, and mind is still closer.

        Whoever talks about affirmation and negation

        Lives in the right and wrong region.


Excerpted from the Gateless Gate

Tight-fist Mind

How much room, how much space, is there in a tight fist?

Sometimes the harder we try to grasp, to make sense of, the tighter our mind becomes. It squeezes. And because of that we get very tired. We can squeeze out the mud through our fingers. In time there is no space left and we are drained by all that effort. We may give ourselves a migraine through all that grasping.

As the Diamond Sutra suggests stop trying so very hard to get your head around something, take a chill pill and relax. Stop grasping. Turn tight-fist mind into empty-palm mind.

Only go straight, do not use tight-fist mind.