A number of years ago my brother sent me a small piece he'd written called "The Crossroad." I immediately recalled a poem my mother had written, called "Crossroads." I was struck at the similarity of themes that went well beyond the title. Although I cannot be absolutely certain, I do not believe that my brother had ever seen my mother's poem.


Herewith, two versions of a crossroad:



I asked the scholar,

"Where hides the truth?"

And he pointed.

I questioned the elder,

"Where lies the truth?"

And he pointed.

I prayed of the preacher

"Which side the truth?"

And he pointed.

And I said to myself,

"How wide the truth."


--Peggy Stebbins Nelson



The Crossroad -- Eamon Nelson


Many years ago a Christian Priest and a Buddhist Zen Master happened to meet at a crossroad and both stopped for a moment to converse. The Priest asked, "I have heard it said by many that Zen is the sound of one hand clapping. If this is so, why can I not hear any sound." "That is easily answered," said the Zen Master. "According to Christ, who is regarded by Zen as an enlightened one not far from Buddhahood, 'hearing they hear not.'" (Matthew, 13:13)


"I also have one question for you," said the Zen Master, "but it is actually four questions in one" he added not to alarm or overwhelm his conversant. "Fine," said the Priest, "let me hear it and I shall answer all four." "Really," said the Zen Master, "if you can satisfactorily answer my question, I shall cast off my monk's robe and bowl to become your disciple." "Praise God," said the Priest, "another jewel in my crown. Welcome to the fold. Ask this question so the we may continue on together."


The Zen Master was silent for quite a few moments, but then he looked up and asked, "Can 'Satan cast out Satan' (Matthew, 12:26) and if he cannot, can some 'come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves' (Matthew, 7:15) but if they cannot, can men have 'worshiped the molten image' (Psalms, 106:19) of a calf and if they have not, can men have worshiped a Lamb 'having seven horns and seven eyes'" (Revelation, 5:6-8)


"This is a difficult question," said the Priest, wishing to avoid any mistaken implication of contradiction or idolatry, "I shall need much time to meditate upon the answer which ought be given to you."


"Excellent," responded the Buddhist Zen Master, "you have become my disciple. You need not follow me, but only the stated intent of your preliminary answer."


Whereupon the Zen Master departed from the crossroad, leaving the Christian Priest standing deep in contemplative thought. He thought for many years and then decided, without reservation, "Christ is the answer." But the Buddhist Zen Master was long since departed unto the Buddhahood to which the essence of the priest's answer was said to be not far from attaining.


Thus to and from the crossroad and the way which followed, one Christian Priest passed on into the Eternal Life of Heaven. While, from his Eight-Fold Path to and from that crossroad, the Buddhist Zen Master passed on into the Eternal Bliss of Nirvana. Would that all living beings might be so blessed as to successfully tread in the path of either one.


My brother, Eamon, has asked that I note that the above piece no longer reflects his current views, which appear on his website.  N.DiF