With the path of Sufism, the way of the heart behind us, where does the devotee fit in?
Maneesha, the devotee fits in everywhere. Of course the context becomes different.
In Sufism, the devotee is devoted to God to such an extent that al-Hillaj Mansoor started shouting, “I am God!” The devotee disappears into God. But God is a hypothesis, so the devotee in Sufism is only living in a very great hallucination. It is his mind’s projection.
But the devotee in Zen has no hypothesis, he is not devoted to any God or to any fiction. His devotion is to a living human master. It is not a fiction, it is a real being-to-being contact.
So don’t think that the devotee has no place in Zen. In fact, in Zen the devotee has a more authentic and real meaning. In Sufism it is only imagination, great imagination. It will bring many flowers, will make the person very blissful, but it is just like a person who is intoxicated.
It is not a coincidence that in Sufism they have wine, and saki – the woman who brings the wine – and God conceived of as a woman. The man who gets deeply involved in Sufi imagination almost looks mad, but you can see he is very joyful; he dances and sings, his whole energy is now being dominated by his imagination.
But if a person, by drinking alcohol or by taking marijuana, dances and sings, do you think it has any significance in the ultimate sense? It is just chemical. Soon the chemical will be out of the body and with the chemical going out of the body, the person is back down to the earth, more shattered than he was ever before. Imagination is a certain release within you of something intoxicating.
That’s why I said to Coleman yesterday, “You bring a Sufi to me, and within one hour I will bring him down to the earth. Otherwise he is flying in the sky.”
There have been cases when people under LSD thought they could fly. It was so clear for them, without any doubt, that they flew out from a seventeen story building. It was not a question of courage, it was not a question of any decision; they were so certain under the impact of LSD that they were found shattered on the earth in pieces.
Sufism is a much lower state, but very simple to be intoxicated with. But the devotee on the path of Zen does not disappear, he simply takes a new context. Now it is a question of coming closer to a living master. It is not a question of coming closer to God, which is only a hypothesis. You can come close to God only in imagination, and you don’t know the powers of imagination.
It happened that Ramakrishna tried many paths. He was the first man in the history of seekers who had tried many paths to see whether they reach to the same point or not. So whatever was available around him in Bengal, he tried. There is a sect which believes that only Krishna is the male and everybody is a female. He followed that path also. It is absolutely imagination, but the story shows the power of imagination.
For six months Ramakrishna lived like a woman, and his disciples were completely shocked to see that he started walking like a woman. Not only that, but his breasts became like a woman; not only that, but he started having periods. Even doctors could not believe it. His voice changed; and when he started having regular periods, his disciples tried to hide the fact, because if others knew they would laugh. They persuaded him to change this path: “You have gone too far!” – and it took almost six months for him to be his own self again.
Imagination is not a small thing, it has tremendous power. If you follow imagination – and all the religions have been doing that – you will see Krishna and you will see Christ. But all that seeing is just your projection. You want to see Krishna, you insist on your imagination producing Krishna, and it will produce. But you are falling into a trap of your own mind.
A devotee in any other religion is devoted to God; only in Zen is his devotion towards a living master.
There is no question of imagination. Imagination has to be avoided completely if you want to know the truth.
From Rinzai: Master of the Irrational, Discourse #4
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