Friday, February 11, 2011

a deer in the forest

So, if your walking in the forest and a deer runs by, followed by a hunter who asks which way the deer went, what do you do?

According to the old Zen Master, it's better to point in the wrong direction and say, "That way!"

Someone once suggested to me that it would be better to not say anything, or say, "I don't know, I didn't see a deer." At the time I didn't have a response. I didn't really agree or disagree, I just felt deep down that for some reason, pointing in the wrong direction was a better answer.

As I thought about it more, I considered, if I don't say anything, it leaves the chance that the hunter will still pursue the deer in the right direction, but if I lie, and send him off the other way, there's very little chance he'll find the deer.

If you're worried about the demerits of lying, consider that the merits of saving the deers life are greater, or that your personal merits shouldn't be considered at all in the face of the deer's life. There's also the fact that you're sending the hunter off on a wild goose chase, which could lead to several ways in which he will suffer frustration, and similar emotions, but his merit will still be better in the end for not having killed the deer. And who knows, maybe he'll even discover an ox!


  1. But what if the hunter is emaciated and is trailed by his starving family? Then what?

  2. Make him some pine needle tea! ^_^

    Actually, I thought about that, too. Didn't have a good answer...
    Maybe, invite them for lunch?

    There's a family of deer that lives behind my parents house (as shown in the photo). The neighbors finally shot the big buck not long ago. I really wish someone could have been there to tell them exactly where to go!

  3. haha - i would tell the hunter there are even two animals around (and presumable this wouldn't even be a lie;)) and one went this way and the other that way...

  4. If I was out hunting too, I might lie, and go after the deer myself.

    Otherwise I would probably tell him the truth.

    If I were against hunting, I would still feel obliged to tell him the truth. Imposing my morals on another is one of the most immoral things I can do. Allowing him to exercise his own moral judgement is the moral option.

  5. "Imposing my morals on another is one of the most immoral things I can do".


    Let's make the forest somewhere in occupied Ukraine, replace the hunter with a Nazi SS officer and the deer with a runaway Jewish child. Imposing your morals on another is the only decent thing to do.

  6. Exactly!
    in this case i'd switch-off the random generator and make sure he went the wrong way.

  7. Kurt, what kind of immoralitiy is 'If I was out hunting too, I might lie, and go after the deer myself', where would you range it on the scale? ;)

  8. I wouldn't hesitate and would lie! :-)
    I discover your beautiful blog.

    Have a nice evening and day!


  9. Thank you!
    I've had a look at your blog as well, very nice!

    Are you a Bikkhu?