The first book I completed from start to finish was THE PRINCE JAMES BIBLE IN A CAN. Nearly one of you have been asking when I plan a sequel or follow-up or some other book featuring Prince James and something canned. So I have begun work on that nearly requested follow-up, this time traveling east: PRINCE JAMES AND THE CRISPLY CANNED BUDDHAS. Following is a premature excerpt from that book.
CHAPTER I: VEGETABLE ZEN
In Zen Buddhism there is a teaching:
1. Erase your parents.
2. Erase yourself.
3. Erase the Buddha.
I will explain using Vegetable Zen:
1. ERASE YOUR PARENTS:
As a child, this involves not eating your vegetables, refusing to eat your vegetables, or saying you ate your vegetables when in fact you threw them in the garbage. When I was a kid, parents generally, and my parents specifically, tried to demand that their kids eat all the food on their plates. That meant eating every conceivable vegetable, including rutabaga and brussel sprouts. My sister took the unwise approach of whining, pouting, hiding food under potato skins, or, lacking potato skins, under a napkin. She would then whine some more when her simple ruse was discovered and make a production over eating the offending vegetables. One favorite tactic was to hold her nose and drink large amounts of milk to wash down the tiniest morsel. Her approach to this type of vegetable torture was religious martyrdom. Her sacrifice may have given me the opportunity for my practice of Zen.
I, already being somewhat Zen-like by nature, practiced patience. I would wait in silent meditation over unwanted vegetables, visualizing them as absent from my plate, without actually eating them. I would out wait everyone. When my parents retired to the living room, I would practice emptiness by emptying my plate into the garbage. I learned that the quickest route to after dinner nirvana lay in covering the thrown out veggies with garbage already in the garbage can, such as a potato peel or napkin, so that the vegetables disappeared into the void. Thus, no trace of the ox remaineth.
2. ERASE YOURSELF:
This practice involves deciding that vegetables are not so bad after all, and deciding to eat them. Vegetables negate the childlike ego and are thus able to fill the void (of your stomach). The more vegetables that you eat the better your practice of vegetable Zen. It is said that one can lose oneself within butter, spices, and a good recipe.
3. ERASE THE BUDDHA:
Decide to start a small vegetable garden in your yard or in the yard of a friend or even your parents. Conjure the training you had as a youth, when your parents had a vegetable garden and you were forced to plant, weed, and otherwise attend that garden. To bless the garden – or otherwise remove negative childhood associations — place a small, medium, or large-sized statue of the Buddha in a central location within the garden. Perform this act with the complete belief that the power of the Buddha will protect and nurture your garden. Optionally, you may picture pixies working under the watchful eye of the Buddha.
Next, become so involved in other projects that you completely neglect your garden. It won’t matter, because the Buddha lives there now and the magic of Mother Nature will achieve perfect harmony through the Taoist art of not-doing. This will give you an inflated sense of self-sufficiency. By harvest you will discover that birds, weeds, insects, or some other act of nature will have more or less destroyed or taken over your garden. There will be little, if anything, left for consumption. Thus, you will have come full circle, not eating your vegetables as you did as a child. With dispassionate disgust, remove the Buddha statue from the vegetable garden and place it where doing nothing is actually a good idea — such as a meditation space or decorative garden. Don’t rely on the Buddha to allow you to do nothing all of the time.
Return to your garden space with the original mind of a man or woman who can no longer suck the Buddha’s thumb. Realize that water, organic fertilizer, and a little weeding would have worked better than relying on the magic power of a statue — however large or golden. So would not planting a garden in the first place. You are now free to do with vegetables as you please: eat or not eat, plant or not plant, make vegetable art, grow giant pumpkins, pretend to garden and actually watch butterflies, or actually garden with the help of butterfly spirits. While you are in this space of Zen-no-garden, you will have attained nothing, the sort of nothing that opens you up to new possibilities. Finally if you can (as in canning) those vegetables not grown, you will have attained vegy-vana: the nirvana of vegetables, crisply canned.
Next up: Koan study
Koan #1: Show me your original vegetable before it was grown and harvested, before it was planted, before it was a seed, before plants were even growing on the planet and the only oxygen producing organism was cyanobacteria.
Alternate Koan: Stop the genetically engineered and horrifically mutated six-legged bull-horned tomato from charging without the use of a hose fitted with a special garden spray nozzle.