Eating Cake Slowly: A Koan

Four monks sat together at a stone table. One monk had a cake, which he was eating very slowly.

“Why do you eat so slowly?” asked the second monk.

“I want to enjoy my cake,” the first monk replied, “but when it is all eaten, I can enjoy it no longer. By eating it slowly, I enjoy it more.”

The third monk reached over and grabbed the cake. “Now this cake is mine to enjoy,” he laughed. “Your reasoning was actually short-sighted.”

The fourth monk, in turn, took the cake from the third. “We aren’t supposed to have cake,” he said. He tossed the cake over the fence.

The fifth monk, who was waiting on the other side of the fence, grabbed the cake out of the air.

“Finally!” he whispered.

The fifth monk popped the whole half-eaten cake into his mouth, causing his cheeks to bulge out.

Just then, a sparrow alighted at the fifth monk’s feet. The fifth monk was struck by the bird’s pitiable aspect and gaunt figure.

He spat out part of the cake onto the ground, and the sparrow started pecking it up with its tiny beak.

“I hope nobody sees this,” thought the fifth monk. But I saw all of it, and I wrote it all down.