In the practice of the highest supreme wisdom, it is most difficult to meet prominent masters. Whether men or women, they must be those who have realized something indescribable . . . This is the realization of the essence of the Way. Therefore, they lead and benefit others, setting aside no causality or making no difference between the self and others.
Once we have met a master, we must practice the Way, aloof from worldly relations and grudging a spare time, even in thinking, non-thinking and neutral thinking. Therefore, we should train ourselves as singleheartedly as if we were saving our head from a burning fire. A Zen master who has dropped away his body and mind is none other than ourselves.
It is inevitably by sincerity and piety that we realize and receive the essence of our master’s Law. These qualities neither come from outside nor rise from inside, but from attaching more importance to the law than to our body, or from renouncing the world and entering the way. If we attach a little more importance to our body than to the Law, we shall be unable to realize and receive the Way.
. . . When someone has realized the great Law and the essence of the Buddhas and patriarchs, we serve him, reverently prostrating ourselves . . .
Sakyamuni-buddha said: “When you meet a master who expounds the supreme wisdom, do not consider his birth, look at his appearance, nor dislike his faults or worry about his behavior. Rather, out of respect for his great Wisdom, treat him with a large sum of money or celestial meals and flowers, or reverently prostrate yourself before him three times a day, giving him no cause for worry; and you will surely find the supreme bodhi-wisdom.”
Dogen continued, . . . Both men and women can realize the way. In any case, the realization of the Way should be respected, regardless of sex. This is an extremely excellent rule in the Way . . . Even a little girl of seven can become the teacher of the four classes of Buddhists . . . If she practices and realizes the Law . . . We should make a venerative offering to her as if to the Buddhas.
This is a traditional manner in Buddhism. I feel sorry for those who have never known or received it personally.
Maneesha, it is one of the most ancient problems – how to recognize the master? Because without the master there is almost no way. I say almost, because perhaps one person in a million may reach to the truth without the master. But it is just accidental, it cannot be made a rule, it is just an exception that simply proves the rule.
And the great concern of masters has been to explain to people the ways of recognizing the master, because the master is the Way. Unless you have seen someone self-realized, you will not trust yourself that you can be realized. Once you have seen a buddha, an enlightened one, a tremendous flame suddenly starts blossoming in you, “If this beauty, this grace, this wisdom, this blissfulness can happen to any man, then why can it not happen to me?”
As far as human beings are concerned, we have the same seeds and the same potentiality. But a seed can remain a seed and may never become a flower, although there was every possibility available. But rather than disappearing in the soil, the seed can remain safe, hiding in a stone cave, thinking that it is too rainy outside, worrying that it is too sunny outside, fearing the unknown. It feels cozy in the closed silence of the cave, but there it cannot grow, there it will simply get rotten. There it will simply remain something . . . it could have been a beautiful manifestation, it simply remains unmanifested, a song unsung, a poetry unwritten, a life unlived.
It is very essential to find a man who can provoke in you the challenge to attain to your heights. The master is nothing but a challenge – if it has happened to me, it can happen to you. And the authentic master – there are so many teachers propounding doctrines, beliefs, philosophies – the authentic master is not concerned with words; is not concerned with beliefs, atheism or theism; is not concerned even with God, or heaven and hell. The authentic master is concerned only with one single thing – to provoke you to see your potentiality, to see inwards. His presence makes you silent, his words deepen your silence, his very being slowly starts melting your falseness, your mask, your personality.
What is the problem of the seed? It is the problem of you, too. The problem of the seed is that the cover is protective. In losing the cover it becomes vulnerable. The seed is perfectly happy covered, but it does not know that there are more skies beyond skies to be discovered, that unless it goes to the beyond it has not lived; because it has not known the world of stars, and it has not lived as a flower dancing in the rain and in the sun and in the wind, it has not heard the music of existence. It remained closed in its safety and security.
And exactly the same is the problem with man. Every man is a bodhisattva. The word ‘bodhisattva’ means, in essence a buddha. The distance between a bodhisattva and a buddha is the distance between the seed and the flower. It is not much; it just takes a little courage to bridge the distance.
But hidden in the darkness of a cave, who is going to give you the encouragement? Who is going to pull you out from your security? The master’s function is to give you a taste of insecurity, to give you a taste of openness. And once you know that openness, insecurity . . . They are basic ingredients of freedom; without them you cannot open your wings and fly in the sky of infinity.
It is absolutely essential to avoid the teachers, they are fake masters. It is very difficult, because they speak the same language. So you have not to listen to the words, you have to listen to the heart; you have not to listen to their doctrines, their logic and arguments, you have to listen to their grace, their beauty, their eyes; you have to listen to and feel the aura that surrounds a master. Just like a cool breeze it touches you. Once you have found your master, you have found the key to open the treasure of your potentialities.
Dogen is talking about this ancient and eternal problem. Dogen says:
In the practice of the highest supreme wisdom, it is most difficult to meet prominent masters.
It is difficult, and if it was difficult in Dogen’s time it has become more difficult nowadays. The world has become more worldly, education has become irreligious, science predominates – and science does not believe in the insight of your being. Our whole culture for the first time in history is absolutely materialistic. It does not matter whether you are in the East or in the West, the same educational pattern has spread all over the globe.
Although you may go traditionally, formally – just as a social conformity – to the temple, to the mosque, deep down you don’t have any trust, deep down there is only doubt. Deep down you are going into the temple not because of any realization, not because you have to show your gratitude to God. You are going there out of fear of the society in which you live – you don’t want to be an outcast. It is simply a social conformity.
It became very clear when in 1917 the Soviet Union went through a revolution. Before the revolution Russia was one of the most orthodox countries in the world. All kinds of superstitions were believed, there were many saints, a great hierarchy in the church. It was absolutely independent from the Vatican; it had its own church. But after the revolution, just within five years, all those beliefs, cultivated for centuries, disappeared. Nobody bothered any more about God.
That does not mean that everybody had understood that there is no God. That simply means the society had changed and you have to change with society – another social conformity. I don’t believe in Russian atheists, just as I don’t believe in any theists, Hindu, Christian or Mohammedan; for the simple reason that their religion is not their own experience, is not their own love affair, it is just a conformity to remain respectable in the crowd.
What is your religion except conformity?
By conformity nobody has found religion. Today it has become almost a universal conformity, because science overrules the mind, logic prevails on our thinking, logic denies anything irrational, science denies anything eternal. Obviously, it has become more and more difficult to find an authentic master. Even to find a teacher is difficult because that too has become out of date. A teacher will be talking about the Upanishads, will be talking about the Bible, will be talking about the Torah, will be talking about the Koran – all are out of date.
Do you think a newspaper twenty centuries afterwards will have any significance? Just within one day its significance is finished. In the morning you were waiting so curiously for the newspaper, by the evening it is thrown out. It has served its purpose: a curiosity to know what is happening around, just a new and more technical way of gossiping.
Now it is no more possible to continue the old type of gossiping because people are living so far away from each other. Newspapers, radio and television are the new forms of gossiping. They spread all kind of nonsense and stupidity to people. This used to be the work of the priest, of the teacher.
Even in the past, as Dogen says, it was very difficult to meet prominent masters. But they have never ceased to be. Even today it is possible, although it has become more difficult to find a master. Because the whole world and its climate, its mind, has turned away from the inner search. One who goes into the inner search today goes alone, without any support from the society. In fact the society creates all kinds of problems for the man who is going in search of himself.
People simply laugh, “Don’t be foolish, go in search of money, go in search of a beautiful woman, go in search of becoming the richest man in the world, go in search of being the prime minister of a country. Where are you going and what will you do even if you find yourself? You will be simply stuck. Once you have found yourself then what are you going to do? You cannot eat it. It is just useless.” The whole endeavor of the centuries has suddenly become completely useless, because so very few people have dared to cross the line, the boundary that the society creates around you.
These few people have found the very source of life, they have found that we are not born with our birth, and we are not going to die with our death. Neither birth nor death … our essence is eternal, beginningless, endless. Births and deaths have happened a thousand-and-one times, they are just episodes, very small things compared to our eternity.
Whenever anybody finds this eternity, it starts transforming him. He becomes a new man in the sense that his vision is clear. He does not belong to any crowd; he cannot be a Christian or a Hindu or a Mohammedan; because he knows in his innermost core that we are all part of one existence. All divisions are stupid. How can a man who has realized himself belong to a crowd, be a member of a crowd? He becomes a peak of consciousness, standing alone like the Everest. He is enough unto himself, and to find him is certainly difficult, but not impossible. You can make it impossible if you go on your search with certain prejudices, with certain criteria already decided by your mind.
For example, a Jaina, even if he comes across a buddha, will not be able to see him. His eyes are covered with his so-called Jainism. He can respect only a man like Mahavira, that is his criterion. And the trouble is, every realized soul is so unique you cannot make criteria. You will have to be more subtle, more intelligent. The Jaina cannot accept Buddha as self-realized because he still wears clothes. His idea of self-realization is that one renounces everything, even clothes; one stands naked.
But please remember, even an actor can stand naked, don’t make it a criterion. Mahavira is unique – he loves to be naked, in the open air, under the sky and the stars. It is beautiful but it is not a criterion. Gautam Buddha eats once a day. Now that is not a criterion, that if somebody eats twice a day he cannot be understood as a buddha. But even our so-called intelligent and our so-called religious people like Mahatma Gandhi make such stupid criteria.
According to him a man of realization cannot drink tea. All the Buddhist masters have been drinking tea, it has been their discovery. It was Bodhidharma who discovered tea. The name ‘tea’ comes from the mountain Tha in China, where Bodhidharma was meditating. And the name has remained the same in different languages . . . just slight changes. In Hindi it is chai, in Marathi it is cha, in Chinese it is tha, in English it has become tea. But a thousand masters have never denied tea as something unspiritual.
On the contrary, Zen has in its monasteries a special teahouse, and when they go for tea it is called a tea ceremony. They have transformed the simple act of drinking tea into a beautiful meditation. You have to leave your shoes outside as if you are entering into a temple. And there is a master who is going to lead the ceremony. Then everybody sits down in the silence of the monastery, the tea is prepared on the samovar and everybody listens to the music of the samovar boiling the tea. It becomes a meditation. Watchfulness is meditation, what you watch does not matter.
Then the master with great grace brings the tea to everybody; pours the tea with immense awareness, consciousness, carefulness, respectfulness, and everybody receives the tea as if something divine is being received. In that silence sipping the tea . . . and this very ordinary thing has become a spiritual experience. Nobody can speak in the teahouse; silence is the rule. When you put down your cups and saucers you also bow down with gratitude to existence. The tea was only a symbol.
But in Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram you could not drink tea, you could not fall in love with a woman. Every day you had to eat with your meal neem leaves, which are the bitterest leaves in the world, just to destroy your taste; because scriptures say that tastelessness is a criterion of spirituality. It can be a criterion of stupidity, it cannot be a criterion of spirituality; otherwise all buffalos will be spiritual.
Have you watched buffalos? They always chew the same grass, showing in no way whether they are happy or unhappy, remaining so content and aloof. And the whole day it continues, chewing and chewing. It cannot be very delicious. You can try, once in a while it is good to try what other species around the world are doing. But I will not say that tastelessness has anything to do with religion. On the contrary, the more you become meditative, the more your taste becomes deeper. Every sense becomes more sensitive, you hear more, you see better, your touch starts becoming warmer.
Just touch a few people’s hands and you will see the difference. Some people’s hands are warm. The warm hands show that they are ready to give, to share; the warmth is their energy moving towards you, it is really a love symbol. But holding some people’s hands will be just like holding a dead branch of a tree, nothing moves in their hands. But these people in the past have been called spiritual. The more dead you are the more spiritual. Don’t eat for the taste’s sake!
You cannot believe that Buddhist scriptures have thirty-three thousand rules for a person to be spiritual. At least I cannot become spiritual, just because I cannot count that many rules. I cannot remember that much – thirty-three thousand rules! Whenever I count, I count on my fingers and after the third finger I always get lost. But that does not mean that I cannot be spiritual, arithmetic has nothing to do with spirituality. And what are those rules?
One instance I will give to you. A young monk is going to spread Buddha’s word to the masses. Before taking his leave, he touches Buddha’s feet and asks him if he has something to say to him, because he will not be able to see him again until the second monsoon comes.
Buddha said, “Yes, I have a few instructions for you. One thing is, never look more than four feet ahead of you.”
The man said, “But why?”
Buddha said, “It is to avoid women. At the most you can see their feet. Then just move on, don’t look at their face. Keep your eyes glued to the ground.”
Now such a man cannot see the stars, such a man cannot see the sunset or the sunrise, such a man is utterly cut off from existence, his sensitivity has been killed. He has eyes but he is almost blind – eyes that can see only four feet ahead. His tremendous capacity for seeing is reduced to only four feet.
The young monk asked, “If once in a while I forget, or if there is some special situation in which I have to see a woman, what should I do?”
Buddha said, “Close your eyes. I am especially concerned, because once you have seen a beautiful woman you can close your eyes but you cannot forget the face.” In fact with closed eyes she becomes more beautiful.
If I were in the place of Gautam Buddha I would give everybody a magnifying glass! Carry it! Whenever you come across a beautiful woman, just look and then her eyes will look like monsters; her nose will become so big that no Jew could defeat it. But this is not spirituality, carrying a magnifying glass . . .
His restriction is nothing but repression, and a repressed person can never enter into his own being. Those repressed feelings and thoughts become a hard shell dividing him from himself, from his own origin. Only an unrepressed, thoughtless, silent being can break away the barrier and reach to his living source. And the moment you reach your living source . . . you don’t have to do anything, it does miracles. It starts changing your attitudes, your approaches, it starts changing everything that you have known about yourself. It brings to you a new beinghood.
To find a master is easy if you are available not only to words, but to silences too; not only to words because the truth never comes through words, but between the words, between the lines, in the silent spaces. If you are searching for a master don’t carry any criterion, any prejudice. Be absolutely available, so that when you come across a master you can feel his energy. He carries a whole world of energy around him. His own experience radiates all around him. If you are open and not afraid of experiencing a new thing, of tasting something original, it is not very difficult to find a master. What difficulty there is, is on your side.
But Dogen’s statement is right:
. . . It is most difficult to meet prominent masters. Whether men or women, they must be those who have realized something indescribable.
That’s what makes them masters: if they know something which cannot be described, if they have some experience which cannot be explained. The master is a mystery. He knows it but he cannot say it. He can share it if you are ready. He can invite you into his own very being. If you are unafraid and fearless, courageous enough to explore the most unknown part of existence, you can become a guest in the master’s home. But remember, the moment you enter into the master’s home the master enters into you. Two consciousnesses cannot remain separate. Once two consciousnesses come close they become one.
And this is the only thing that has to be remembered: if with someone you feel a deep affinity, a deep synchronicity, as if one soul is in two bodies, then don’t miss this man. He is going to lead you to the same incredible, indescribable, inexpressible experience.
This is the realization of the essence of the way.
Finding the master is finding the Way.
Therefore, they lead and benefit others, setting aside no causality or making no difference between the self and others.
A very famous Sufi mystic used to come to a place where I lived for twenty years, and his disciples always wanted me to meet their master. I said, “The only way is: next time your master can stay with me.”
So the next time the Sufi master came he stayed with me, and I asked him first thing, “Are you still Mohammedan?”
He looked surprised and shocked. He said, “Of course.”
I said, “Then you don’t know the indescribable. These divisions between Mohammedans and Hindus and Jainas and Buddhists are divisions of the mediocre and retarded.”
But he said, “I realized God. I see him.” I said, “It is all nonsense.”
Anando has just brought to me . . . There is in America a new species of priests, television priests, that has never existed before. A very famous television priest has become more famous since he has declared that he sees God every night. God is nine hundred feet long! I told Anando, “Write a letter to him from me, ‘Please tell me, do you carry a ladder and something to measure with? or is it just guess work?’” Nine hundred feet, exactly!
We think we live in the twentieth century. Even in America people are not living in the twentieth century, to say nothing of countries like India. Millions worship that man and nobody even bothers that this is so stupid.
Seeing this, another missionary started declaring that he also sees God and he has a long white beard. So I have sent him my picture, “You don’t be deceived, it is me who visits you in your dreams! In the first place, if God is eternal, he cannot have white hair. He will always be young. It is man who becomes old.”
He has even published his picture, which is similar to mine, so I have told him, “Just look at my picture. Just not to be recognized by everybody else I’m wearing the glasses. But it’s me you have been seeing in your dreams. Don’t exploit people by saying that you are seeing God.”
God is not an object. You cannot see God. God is your very consciousness. It is the seer, not the seen. It is you, not some object somewhere. It is your innermost center, which is the only eternal point, unchangeable, immortal, divine in its beatitude, in its blessings.
When you come close to a master just remember one thing: withdraw all defenses. Be as empty as possible, so that the master’s energy can penetrate you, can penetrate your being, can touch your heart. And it is an immediate realization. Just as when you fall in love, you don’t think about love, you don’t consult librarians about love, you don’t ask your elders how to fall in love. There is no school that teaches how to fall in love. But people fall in love, it suddenly happens.
Just as love suddenly happens on the lower level, on the physical and biological level … finding the master is a form of the highest love. The moment you come into the area of his influence – which is called the buddhafield, the field of the master – you suddenly start throbbing with a new energy, you suddenly feel a new freshness, a new breeze passing through you, a new song which makes no sound. All that is left for you is to relax in deep gratitude. Don’t even utter the word ‘thank you’, because that is separating. This is not the time to utter a word . . . just a gesture of gratitude.
Once we have met a master, we must practice the way. If the master himself is the Way, how do you practice? You simply watch how the master moves, what gestures he makes, how he responds to situations. Because he is every moment an absolute awareness. His every action is an indication of his innermost being. Watch him! Watch him when he is sleeping, watch him when he is waking, watch him when he is talking, watch him when he is sitting silently, doing nothing.
Watching the master with deep gratitude and love, absorbing his energy silently . . . It is almost like drinking water when you are thirsty, a deep feeling of contentment comes to you.
. . . aloof from wordly relations and grudging a spare time, even in thinking, non-thinking and neutral thinking. Therefore, we should train ourselves as singleheartedly as if we were saving our head from a burning fire. A Zen master who has dropped away his body and mind is none other than ourselves.
The buddha and you in your deepest consciousness are one. The Upanishads declare: Aham brahmasmi – I am God. It is not out of any egoistic attitude – those people who wrote the Upanishads have not even signed it. We don’t know who wrote those Upanishads. Their statements are so clear – it is impossible to have an ego and make such clear-cut statements about the truth. And when they declared, “Aham brahmasmi,” they were not declaring it for themselves only; they were declaring for everybody, “You are the God.” Don’t search for him anywhere else. You will not find him in any holy place. If you cannot find him within yourself, you cannot find him anywhere else. The moment you find him in you, he is everywhere. Then you will see him in the song of a cuckoo or the chirping of the birds or in a thunderbolt or in this silence. Then he is everywhere.
Once you know him within you, you know him all over. The whole existence becomes one continent. The ego makes you small islands. And remember, no man is an island, because even the small island deep down is joined with the continent. Just one has to go a little deep, dive a little deep.
It is inevitably by sincerity and piety that we realize and receive the essence of our master’s Law.
This word ‘Law’ is a very difficult translation of the word dhamma. It gives a distorted view; the moment you hear the word ‘law’ you remember your courts and constitution, your legal authorities; you don’t remember the word ‘dhamma’.
Dhamma is a Pali translation of the Sanskrit dharma. And ‘dharma’ means: fire is hot – hot is the dhamma of fire; ice is cold, it is the dhamma of ice. And you are a buddha, it is the dhamma of you. Better translated, law should not be used as a translation for dhamma, but rather ‘nature’. It is your nature to be a buddha. It does not matter that sometimes you forget. You can remain in forgetfulness for your whole life or many lives. Still, as an undercurrent the same dhamma, the same buddha, the same consciousness continues.
Once it happened . . . George Bernard Shaw was traveling to some place from London. The ticket checker came and George Bernard Shaw looked into everything, searched his whole suitcase, perspiring. The ticket was not found, although he knew perfectly well that he had purchased a ticket. The ticket checker said, “Don’t be worried. I know you, everybody knows you. You must have put it somewhere. Don’t be worried. I will take care that nobody harasses you.”
Bernard Shaw said, “That is not the problem, my boy. The ticket is not the problem. The problem is how to know where I am going. Do you think I am searching for the ticket for you?”
You can forget. Forgetfulness is part of our nature, just as remembrance is. Sometimes you all must have come to a point where you were trying to remember some old acquaintance’s name. You say it is just on the tip of the tongue. What do you mean? If it is on the tip of the tongue, spit it out! You know perfectly well that you know, but it is not coming to expression. The harder you try the more difficult it will become, because the harder you try, the more narrow the passage becomes. Mind becomes tense and old memories cannot get through that tenseness. Finally you give up and just start smoking, and while smoking suddenly it comes. You cannot believe, you had been trying so hard, you knew it was just on the tip of the tongue, and still you could not express it. I say to you the buddha is just on the tip of your tongue. It is only a question of smoking a little. A little relaxation, that’s what the smoking gives.
People smoke cigarettes and cigars not knowing that psychologically it is simply their mother’s breast. That’s why it gives them so much relaxation. From the nipple of the mother’s breast lukewarm milk comes to the child; from the cigarette lukewarm smoke comes in – and you have forgotten everything, you have become again a child, innocent, relaxed. No government can stop people from smoking, because smoking is not really the question. It has a deep psychology behind it.
You can see the psychology without much erudition. Poets sing about the women’s breast more than anything else. Painters paint the woman’s breast more than anything else. There are a few painters who only paint women’s breasts and nothing else. They go on improving . . .
Why this obsession? Why this fixation? The reality is that more and more mothers are not willing to breast feed the child, because to feed the child this way is to misshape the breast. The child goes on pulling, it makes the breast longer, and every woman wants the breast to be shapely, round, a full moon, and these young monsters won’t allow it. They are interested in their work, because a round breast, a sculptor’s idea of a woman’s breast, will kill the child. If the breast is round the child cannot have his nourishment, his nose will be closed. Either he can breathe or he can drink; both together he cannot do. So all those Khajuraho paintings and statues, all those great painters, don’t understand that the poor child’s life is at stake!
Every woman becomes interested, and now it is even being discussed in parliaments around the world, “Should women be forced to feed the child, or should they be given the freedom to choose themselves?” No woman wants to distort her breasts. Unless they find some technological device . . . and it can be done. Just join the breast and the baby’s mouth with a small pipe. And the child is almost on a cigar from the very beginning!
I always see simple solutions to very great problems! Just a small plastic pipe . . . the child will enjoy it and he can continue to enjoy it later on also because he is going to be in companionship with women. Nobody can prevent by law something which has a psychological root. And nobody can prevent you from becoming a buddha, because it is your very nature. It is another matter that you get involved in the small things of the world – power, prestige, respectability – and you forget to give some time to yourself. Just a little time to yourself, forgetting the whole world . . . there is no need to renounce it. I am against renouncing anything.
All the religions of the world have been religions of renunciation. They wanted people to meditate, to renounce the world, to go to the mountains, to the forests, to the deserts where nobody comes along. But that did not work, it does not work. Even if you go to the mountain a crowd will follow you there – in your mind, not outside. Outside you will not see anybody, but with your eyes closed you will think about so many things: your wife, your children, your old parents, your friends and all kinds of stupid things – Lions Club and Rotary Club. Things that you have never thought of before will start coming to your mind, because having nothing else to chew . . . even chewing gum is not available, you have to chew something. People start thinking of strange things.
But this is not realizing oneself. I am against renouncing the world, I want you to be in the world as totally as possible. So just once in a while be on a holiday. Just in the early morning for a few moments renounce everything, forget everything, and just be yourself. In the dark night when everybody is asleep sit on your bed and just be yourself.
This is far more successful. The old renunciation was almost violent. Nobody has pointed it out because nobody wants to be condemned, but I am so much condemned now that I don’t care. All the religions are responsible for millions of women who became widows even while their husbands were alive; children who became orphans although their fathers were alive; old parents who became beggars because their young son on whom they were dependent had renounced the world. Nobody has counted how much harm the very idea of renunciation has done, and what is the gain? Just measure both, there seems to be no gain. All those who have renounced are simply dreaming about the same things, clinging in the same way, jealous in the same way.
I was in the Himalayas and I was just going to sit under a tree, when from another tree a monk, a Hindu monk, shouted, “Don’t sit there. That belongs to my master.”
I said, “My God, even here in this forest . . . You have renounced the whole world, but you have not yet renounced the tree. And the tree belongs to nobody.”
He said, “I am warning you; he is a dangerous man.”
I said, “He has to be dangerous, because renunciation of the world can be done only by violent people.”
How can you leave the world? This is your very sea, in which you are the fish. Leaving it you will die. How can a bird leave the sky? It is his very world. If he leaves the sky he will die. You cannot leave the world, but just on the margin you can take a few holidays, a few moments for yourself . . . and nobody will even know about it.
These small moments in which you drop the whole world as if it is a dream – and your own being remains the only reality – are the greatest moments of joy, peace, silence, blissfulness. These moments are divine. In these moments you are no more the ordinary human being, you have suddenly transcended humanness, you have transcended all form, you have entered into the formless existence. Your heart becomes the heartbeat of the whole existence.
This is the only practice possible, everything else is non-essential and dangerous. Be ordinary in every way, just keep a few small spaces here and there. The world goes on, you don’t interfere in it, neither do you escape from it. You participate in it, and with participation you go on growing inside in these few moments. Remaining in the world and becoming a buddha, that is my message.
When someone has realized the great Law and the essence of the Buddhas and patriarchs, we serve him, reverently prostrating ourselves.
What can we do when somebody radiates consciousness, radiates the dance of existence? What do we have to offer? In the West people have always been concerned why people in the East touched the feet of their masters. They don’t know it has become a traditional thing. Unfortunately everything becomes traditional; but basically, essentially, it has a great beauty. It is not a question of feet. It is simply a question of a gratitude which cannot be said, but only expressed by touching the feet of the master
Sakyamuni-buddha said: “When you meet a master who expounds the supreme wisdom, do not consider his birth.”
Don’t ask what caste he belongs to, don’t ask about his appearance. He may not look beautiful according to your ideas, he may not come from a high caste, from the Brahmins; he may be a sudra like Kabir or Dadu. He may not have renounced a kingdom like Buddha and Mahavira.
But everybody does not have a kingdom to renounce. I used to know a postmaster, a very poor man. He lived just nearby my house, so we used to talk once in a while. When his wife died – he had no children – he renounced the world. The same people who had never paid any attention to the poor man started touching his feet, and soon he became very famous. After twenty years I met him again through one of his disciples who said, “You should see him.”
I said, “I know him.”
But they said, “He has changed, he is a transformed man. He has renounced millions.”
I said, “I know that in his post office account he had kept thirty-six rupees only. From where did he get millions?” But rumors . . . and he was enjoying those rumors. I said, “I am coming to put him in his right senses.”
I asked him, “Please tell to your disciples how many rupees you had left in your post office account.”
He looked so sadly at me. He said, “It will be better if we meet separately, alone, not with all these people.”
I said, “I have to meet here in front of everybody, because these people think you have renounced millions. Now say clearly how many rupees!”
He said, “Thirty-six.”
The disciples said, “Thirty-six? And you never told us before?”
He said, “I enjoyed the idea that I had renounced millions. And I never said anything . . . I simply did not deny it. So you cannot blame me.”
And I said, “Tell these people the real thing.”
He said, “What real thing?”
The real thing was that before he decided to renounce he asked me to write three speeches for him, one for ten minutes, one for twenty minutes, one for thirty minutes. He said, “I will memorize them completely and for a ten minute occasion I will use one; if twenty minutes are available I will use that one. I don’t think more than thirty minutes will be available to me at conferences.”
I said, “I am asking about those three speeches. Are you using them still or not?”
He said, “My God, you have come here to kill me completely! These people think I am a realized man!”
I said, “Tell these people that those three speeches were written by me.”
He said, “I have to admit it.” But he lost all his fame. Suddenly his disciples disappeared, everybody started laughing about the whole thing. But for twenty years continuously he had maintained his great learnedness with those three speeches.
I brought him back to my home. I said, “I need a gardener. You just do the garden and meditate with the plants, with the roses.” And India has so many beautiful flowers, incomparable, because of the climate. The Indian rose has a fragrance that is not possible in a cold country; the fragrance is not released, it needs the sun. India has so many beautiful flowers, unknown to the world. I had a beautiful garden, so I put him to work.
He said, “I was enjoying being an enlightened one, and unfortunately somebody brought you there. In this old age now I have to become a gardener again.”
I said, “This is far more authentic. Just be a gardener. It is a simple job. You can meditate and you can shower the water on the plants. The showering of water on the plants does not disturb your meditation. The flowers are not disturbing, the trees are very loving and very peaceful. I am giving you a really alive temple.”
Dogen is saying that when you meet a master don’t think about his birth, don’t bother about his appearance. All that is needed is a recognition that this is a man who has realized himself; everything else is non-essential. All that is needed now is a deep gratitude. It is a miracle to find such a man, and you have found him.
Your gratefulness will bring a spring to your being. The master’s experience will start flowing towards you just as rivers flow down from the mountains towards the ocean. Your gratefulness becomes just like an ocean: vast, available. And the master’s heights are like the mountains, from where the Ganges and thousands of other rivers come running, rushing, jumping from rock to rock, from valley to valley, reaching towards the ocean. If you are with a master all that you need is a humbleness, a gratitude. And the master is bound to pour himself into you.
Dogen continued, . . . Both men and women can realize the Way. In any case, the realization of the Way should be respected, regardless of sex, this is an extremely excellent rule in the Way. Even a little girl of seven can become the teacher of the four classes of Buddhists . . . if she practices and realizes the Dhamma . . . We should make a venerative offering to her as if to the Buddhas.
Neither age matters nor birth matters, nor country nor race. What matters is your awareness, and awareness is neither Hindu nor Christian nor Mohammedan. It is just a fire, an eternal fire, invisible to the outside eye but visible when you close your eyes and go inward.
Mountains of green
Mountains of blue arise:
My gratitude wells up
And fills my eyes.
Left it behind –
The moon at the window.
This is just what Ryokan wrote after the thief had gone. The whole story is beautiful. One night a thief entered into Ryokan’s small hut. Ryokan had only one blanket which he used day and night to cover his body. That was his only possession. He was lying down but he was not asleep, so he opened his eyes and saw the thief entering. He felt great compassion for him because he knew there was nothing in the house. “If the poor fellow had informed me before, I could have begged something from the neighbors and kept it here for him to steal. But now what can I do?”
Seeing that there was nothing, that he had entered into a monk’s hut, the thief started to go out. Ryokan could not resist. He gave his blanket to the thief. The thief said, “What are you doing? You are standing naked. It is a very cold night!”
He said, “Don’t be worried about me. But don’t go empty-handed. I have enjoyed this moment; you have made me feel like a rich man. Thieves usually enter the palaces of emperors. By your entering here my hut has also become a palace, I have also become an emperor. In my joy this is just a gift.”
Even the thief felt sorry for him and he said, “No, I cannot receive this gift because you don’t have anything. How you are going to pass the night? It is so cold, and it is getting colder!”
Ryokan said with tears in his eyes, “You remind me again and again of my poverty. If it was in my power I would have taken hold of the full moon and given it to you.”
When the thief left he wrote in his diary:
Left it behind –
The moon at the window.
These haikus are not ordinary poems. These are statements of deep meditativeness.
Maneesha has asked:
Our Beloved Master,
What is the essence of our Master’s Law?
Maneesha, here I am not – just an empty space, a hollow bamboo. If you want to join with me, nothing else is needed. Just be utterly empty and silent. This is your master’s dhamma. And in fact, this is all the masters’ dhamma. Become a hollow bamboo so that you can be turned into a flute and songs of immense beauty can pass through you. They will not be your songs; they will be songs of existence.
From Dogen, the Zen Master: A Search and a Fulfillment, Discourse #4
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