"He was a Zen Master. And it was not easy being a Zen Master, for many would-be disciples came from all parts of Japan to seek his guidance. But he lived in a modest cottage in the mountains and let the aspiring disciples come as they would.

"One day a young man arrived at the Master's cottage. This was a young man who was quite serious about his spiritual path. This acolyte had studied much, meditated much, and felt that he was quite ready to become the right-hand disciple of any Master.

"It had been raining when the young man arrived at the Master's house. The Master was seated on a pillow in a small room. The young man carefully removed his shoes and placed his umbrella outside the door.

"The young man entered the room and bowed to the Master. 'I would like to become your disciple. I would like to become enlightened as you are, Master,' the young man said.

"The master smiled.

" 'I have studied much and feel that I am on the path to realization,' said the young man, growing a bit uncomfortable at the Master's silence.

"The Master smiled with his eyes half-closed and nodded.

" 'Don't you feel that I could become an awakened one?' asked the youth, becoming exasperated at the Master's reticence.

"The Master opened his eyes. The young man now felt hopeful. The Master would accept him.

" 'Do you know on which side of the door you placed your umbrella and on which side you placed your shoes?' asked the Master quietly.

" 'I-I-n-n-no," stuttered the young man, disconcerted. 'Why?'

" 'Because,' answered the Master slowly, 'what you seek is awareness. And how can you be aware if you do not even know where you have put your shoes and umbrella?' "