Jul 142012
Inspired by The Codeless Code:

The master was meditating when a priest respectfully entered his chamber. The master opened his eyes. The priest bowed respectfully and said, “Master, I would like you to look at the code of a young disciple of mine”. The master nodded and followed the priest to a computer. On the screen, was a code listing. The priest pointed to the code and said:

“My disciple created an abstract class and another class that extends the abstract class. However, he has a method that should be of use to all future derivations of the abstract class.”

The master furrowed his brow and looked at the code. “Indeed.”, he said. The priest continued, “I pointed this fact out to him and mentioned that it would be better to define it in the abstract class”. “I see; what did he say?”, asked the master.

The priest sighed and said, “He said ‘You Ain’t Gonna Need It’ and that he could simply copy the method into each new derivation when the time comes”. The master then asked the priest to bring the disciple to him at once. The priest bowed and went away to fetch the young disciple.

A few minutes later, the young disciple respectfully entered the master’s chamber. “You sent for me, master?”, he said. “Yes. I have a task for you”, said the master. The disciple bowed, indicating that he was ready to perform whatever task the master required. The master looked at the disciple and said: “Tomorrow, we will have monks visiting from a neighboring monastery. In their honor, our monastery is providing a feast for them. I need you to report to the dining hall tomorrow. The cook will give you further instructions”. The disciple bowed and left the master’s chamber.

The next morning the disciple arrived at the dining hall as he was asked. He looked around and noticed a large number of seats. He assumed, correctly, that these seats were for the visiting monks. He then noticed the monastery’s cook approaching him. The cook was holding a bowl that was filled with a white substance. As the cook got closer, the disciple realized that it was salt. Once the cook reached the disciple, he held out the bowl to him and said, “Master has asked you to give salt to any of the monks who desire it”. The disciple took the bowl and the cook left. The disciple was puzzled, but smiled thinking that this was going to be an easy task. After all, how many monks would require more salt in their food? He estimated only a few; not much more than that.

In a few minutes, the visiting monks arrived and sat at their places. Other monks from the hosting monastery brought out steaming bowls of soup for the visitors. The head visiting-monk took a spoonful of soup, sipped it and wrinkled his nose. “This soup does not have any salt!” he said, rather loudly. The disciple quickly ran up to the head visiting-monk and bowed and said “Master, I apologize that there is not enough salt in your soup, please allow me to offer you some!” The head monk nodded and the disciple quickly added salt until the monk motioned him to stop. He had barely finished when he heard another monk complaining that there was no salt in his soup either, then another, and another. Soon he was running around the hall at full speed, bringing salt to each of the visiting monks, trying his best to make sure that everyone was happy. The hall was big, and the number of visiting monks was many. When he was done, he sat down exhausted, in the corner of the hall.

He closed his eyes and tried to catch his breath. When he opened his eyes, he noticed that the next course was being brought in. “Surely the cook wouldn’t have forgotten to add salt this time!”, he thought. Unfortunately, it was not so! “There is no salt in my meal!”, thundered the head visiting-monk. The disciple got up and ran to the head monk to add salt his meal. Soon other monks started complaining and the disciple was running around the hall as he had done before, offering salt to all the visiting monks. The disciple hoped that this would be the last time he would have to do this, but alas, there were three more courses! The rest of the courses passed by in a blur for the disciple. All he could remember was that he was running around the entire hall, bringing salt to the visiting monks. The monks didn’t all finish their meals at the same time and so the later courses were continuously being brought out. Hence, he was always on his feet and didn’t get a chance to rest.

Finally, the monks stopped asking for salt and the disciple wearily went back to his corner. Dessert would be next, and there would be no need for salt then. He had barely sat down when he saw the cook approaching him. This time he had another bowl, also filled with a white substance. When the cook got close, he offered the bowl to the disciple and said a single word: “Sugar”. The disciple was almost in tears. He knew was was coming and prepared himself for the endless rushing around that he would have to do. Luckily there was only one course of dessert. When the feast was done, the disciple collapsed in the corner. He opened his eyes and noticed the cook walking towards him again. “What more will he want me to do?”, thought the disciple frantically. He noticed with some relief however, that the cook’s hands were empty. “Master will see you now”, said the cook as he got closer to the disciple. The disciple wearily got up to his feet and walked to the master’s chambers.

After a few minutes, the disciple arrived at the master’s chambers. He walked in and bowed in front of the master, his legs burning with fatigue. “How was your task?” asked the master with his eyes still closed. “It was exceedingly difficult master! There was no salt in the soup or the meals, and no sugar in the desserts! I had to run around the whole hall bringing salt and sugar to the visiting monks!”, said the disciple. “It must have been exceedingly tiring…”, said the master. “Yes, master! It was!”, said the disciple nodding his head. The master opened his eyes and said, “One could say that your task would have been much easier had the salt and sugar been added to the meals at the source, and thus before they were brought out to our honored visitors.”

In that moment, the disciple was enlightened.

  2 Responses to “The Feast”

  1. This is really a quite excellent metaphor! I very much enjoyed reading it. And thanks for the link to my site… you will find a similar link to your koans here:


  2. @Qi: I’m so glad you found this interesting! Thank you very much, and thank you for including a link on your site!

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