combat writing badge C O M B A T
the Literary Expression of Battlefield Touchstones
ISSN 1542-1546 Volume 02 Number 03 Summer ©Jul 2004

A Sergeant's Zen Mondo

The Zen master said: “When hungry, we eat; when tired, we sleep ... now go wash your bowl.” The ol’ Sarge says: “Yeh ... and spit-shine the floor before formation!”

The Zen master said: “You can bow or you can spit. Whatever you do won't change anything ... it is what it is.” The ol’ Sarge says: “When the salutes get extra snappy and the troops stop grumbling, then everybody's worried ... but it don't change nothing. We just carry-on.”

The Zen master said: “It doesn't need a name, so if you call it by something else, you haven't changed its essence.” The ol’ Sarge says: “Everything is numbered and named, so if you call it by something else, then you haven't changed it ... it's changed you!”

The Zen master said: “The power of an accident cannot be imitated. It takes the illusion of control to discover that it is not needed.” The ol’ Sarge says: “The effect of a swift and surprising strike that overwhelms the opposing force should not be underestimated, and cannot be substituted!”

The Zen master said: “The unenlightened will mistake the direction for the goal, and will cling to the pointer!” The ol’ Sarge says: “The troops who put their heads down and charge won't stop 'til they hit the box they're buried in!”

The Zen master said: “We rent tea, and borrow wisdom.” The ol’ Sarge says: “We rent beer, and borrow courage.”

The Zen master said: “When eating, just eat; when sleeping, just sleep ... above all, don't wobble.” The ol’ Sarge says: “... or the enemy will catch you unprepared every time!”

The Zen master said: “Making Buddha-nature from ordinary-mind is like making a mirror from brick.” The ol’ Sarge says: “You think that's hard? ... you ought to see some of our 'officer' material!”

The Zen master says: “Your original face is like a map of the city.” The ol’ Sarge says: “We got ugly trainees too, but topography is an essential for strategy, and land-navigation is critical for survival!”

The Zen master said: “The unenlightened stands in his own shadow, and wonders why it is so dark.” The ol’ Sarge says: “A replacement has fog in his mind, and he thinks it is smoke on the landing-zone!”

The Zen master said: “You learned everything you ever needed to know as a child, but after satori you know everything differently.” The ol’ Sarge says: “You learned everything you ever needed to know in Basic Training, but after combat you know everything differently!”

The Zen master says: “The way to become is to just be!” The ol’ Sarge says: “The way to react is to just act!”

The Zen master said: “Live like a wise man, and die like a pilgrim.” The ol’ Sarge says: “Live like a mad man, and die like a wise man.”

The Zen master said: “In winter we shiver, and in summer we sweat.” The ol’ Sarge says: “Combat is miserable anytime of the year! ... but fear makes us all shiver and sweat on the battlefield, no matter how much we may brag or lie afterwards!”

The Zen master said: “The meaning of life is simply 'life'.” The ol’ Sarge says: “Your's is not to reason why, but to do or die!”

The Zen master said: “The sound of one hand clapping ...”, and the ol’ Sarge concluded: “... is too damn much noise on patrol!”.

by Pan Perdu
... who is a former soldier and VA counselor; this work has been excerpted from Fragmentations, a book in progress.