A young girl was walking through the fields when she noticed a tiger had spotted her. The tiger began to stalk her. She started to run, and the tiger hurried in pursuit. The young girl came upon a tree and scurried up. The Tiger came up to the trunk of the tree and began to climb toward the girl. So she climbed further up the tree, going out on a branch. As she moved out on the branch she was startled to see a poisonous snake.
The snake was slithering toward her. She looked behind, and the tiger was making progress up the tree. Suddenly she noticed she was in a cherry tree and there was a ripe cherry was right in front of her. She plucked the cherry, popped it into her mouth . . . and it was delicious.
What does this Zen story mean? It’s been told many ways, but the central facts are the same from telling to telling. There is danger behind, danger going forward, and the fruit is very tasty. In the Zen story, the tiger is the past, the snake is the future, and both are very threatening . However, the fruit is the present, and it is fine and wonderful.
I believe you can take the story a step further. As with the Zen lesson, there is no tiger and there is no snake, but perhaps there is also no cherry tree or luscious cherry. The cherry is part of the illusion that includes the tiger and the snake.
You can take it a step further yet: there is no young girl, for she is also part of the illusion. There is only consciousness which is neither tiger, nor snake, nor cherry, nor tree, nor young girl. All that exists is the taste, and it is delicious.