A modern student came to a Zen Master. He had questions, but primarily wished to know what -Zen- was all about. He one day asked the master to explain what zen was.
The master instructed him that the secret of zen wasn’t just for anyone, so he would have to prove his sincerity in wishing to learn by working for the master. He began by having the student clean the gutters.
After the gutters were clean, he came back to the master who replied, “Not yet. Tomorrow, I need you to sweep the sidewalks.”
The student did just that, but upon approaching the master, he was once again told “Not yet” and continued his list of chores. Soon enough, the student found that he was working a practically full time job simply doing manual labor around the master’s home. He kept this up for months, really wanting to know, but one day hearing “Not yet,” was more than he could stand.
He came to the master, furious. “I have asked again and again, ‘what is zen about’ and time and time again you have denied me an answer.” The master simply nodded. “I need to know, and you are not sharing with me, despite my working my hands to the bone. What is zen?”
The master said solemnly, “Not yet.”
The student, exasperated said, “Fine, I am done here. If I wanted to work menial jobs for no pay endlessly, I could do that anywhere.”
The master smiled and said, “That is zen.”