The official, Riko, once asked Nansen to explain to him the old problem of the goose in the bottle.
The problem is very ancient. It is a koan; it is given to a disciple, that he has to meditate on it. It is absurd; you cannot “solve” it. A koan is something which cannot be solved. Remember, it is not a puzzle. A puzzle has a clue; a koan has no clue. A koan is a puzzle without any clue. Not that more intelligence will solve it. No, no intelligence will ever solve it. Even if it is given to God, it will not be solved. It is made in such a way that it cannot be solved. This is a koan.
“If a man puts a gosling into a bottle,” said Riko, “and feeds him until he is full grown, how can the man get the goose out without killing it or breaking the bottle?”
Don’t break the bottle — and the goose has to be taken out — and don’t kill the goose. Now, these are the two conditions to be fulfilled. The koan becomes impossible. The bottle has a small neck; the goose cannot come out from it. Either you have to break the bottle or you have to kill the goose. You can kill the goose, and piece by piece you can take the goose out, or you can break the bottle, and the goose can come out alive, whole. But the condition is the bottle has not to be broken and the goose has not to be killed. The goose has to come out whole and the bottle has to remain whole. Nothing has to be destroyed; no destruction allowed. Now, how are you going to solve it? But meditating on it, meditating on it . . . one day it happens that you see the point. Not that you solve the problem, suddenly the problem is no more there.
Nansen gave a great clap with his hands and shouted, “Riko!”
“Yes, Master,” said the official with a start.
“See,” said Nansen, “the Goose is out!”
Now, it is tremendously beautiful. What he is saying is that the goose has never been in, the goose has always been out. What is he saying, the moment he said, “Riko!”? What happened? Those seven layers of ego disappeared and Riko became aware. The shout was so sudden, the sound was so unexpected. He was expecting a philosophical answer.
That’s why sometimes the Zen Master will hit you on your head or throw you out of the window or jump upon you or threaten you that he will kill you: he will do something so that those seven layers of ego are immediately transcended and your awareness, which is the center of all, is alert. You are made alert.
Now, shouting “Riko!” so suddenly, for no reason at all — and he has brought a small puzzle to be solved and this Master suddenly shouts “Riko!” — he cannot see the connection.
And that is the whole clue to it. He cannot see the connection, the shout startles him, and he says, “Yes, Master.”
“See,” said Nansen, “the goose is out!” […]
“Yes, Master” — in that moment Riko was pure consciousness, without any layer. In that moment, Riko was not the body. In that moment, Riko was not the mind. In that moment, Riko was just awareness. In that moment, Riko was not the memory of the past. In that moment, Riko was not the future, the desire. In that moment, he was not in any comparison with anybody. In that moment, he was not a Buddhist or a Mohammedan or a Hindu. In that moment, he was not a Japanese or an Indian.
In that moment, when the Master shouted “Riko!” he was simply awareness, without any content, without any conditioning. In that moment, he was not young, old. In that moment, he was not beautiful, ugly. In that moment, he was not stupid, intelligent. All layers disappeared. In that moment, he was just a flame of awareness.
That is the meaning when the Master says, “See, the goose is out — and I have not broken the bottle, I have not even touched the bottle.” The bottle means the ego, those seven layers. “I have not broken the bottle, it is there, and I have not killed the goose. And the goose is out.” Now, there are three types of religions in the world. One which will destroy the bottle. Then you become very vulnerable, then you become very insecure, then great trembling arises in you, and then there is every possibility you may go mad. That sort of thing happens many times in India. There are methods which can destroy the bottle, easier methods. They destroy the bottle, and the goose is out; but then the goose has no house to abide in, no shelter; then there is every possibility the man may go mad. And many people in India, seeking, searching, working towards the unknown become mad. When the unknown comes into them, they have no protection.
Remember, you need protection even against God because God can be too much too suddenly. Those protections have not to be destroyed; practically, they have to remain there. Just think of a person who has no ego. Now, the house is on fire: he will not run out. For what? “I am not. The fire cannot burn me, because I am not.” Just think of a man who has no ego, and he is standing in the middle of the road, and there comes a bus and the driver honks and honks, and he does not bother. He is the immortal soul; he is not the ego. This state can be dangerous. It happens if you destroy the bottle.
Zen says don’t destroy the bottle. Use it when it is needed. Whenever you feel to have protection, the goose simply goes inside the bottle. Sometimes one needs rest, and sometimes the bottle is also useful. It can be put to a thousand and one uses. The ego can be used if you know that you are not the ego. Then the ego cannot use you, you can use it. And there are methods which will save the bottle and kill the goose — self-destructive methods are there — so one becomes more and more unaware. That is what I mean when I say kill the goose: one becomes more and more unaware. Drugs can do that. Drugs have been used in India for thousands of years. They can kill the goose. The bottle remains protected, but the goose is killed. If you take some foreign chemicals inside your being and your nature is not ready to absorb them, by and by you will kill the goose, your consciousness will be gone, you may fall in a coma.
The first possibility, if the bottle is broken and thrown; you may go mad. The second possibility, if the goose is killed, or almost killed: you will become so unconscious that you will become a zombie. You can find zombies. In many monasteries there are zombies, whose goose is killed, or at least drugged. And there are mad people, maniacs. Zen says avoid both. The bottle has to remain and the goose has to come out. This is a great synthesis.
“Yes, Master,” Said the official with a start.
“See,” Said Nansen, “The goose is out!”
It must have been a moment of great discovery to Riko. He must have seen it, “Yes, it is out.” He is fully aware. The trick worked, the device worked, the shouting and clapping worked. In fact, Riko must have been almost on the verge; otherwise shouting would not do. You can go on shouting. Clapping won’t do. But the man must have been just on the verge of it. Just a small push, and he has jumped the barrier.
Meditate over it. This is the way to attain the first principle: to know that the goose can be out without destroying the bottle, that you can be God without destroying your humanity, that you can be God without destroying your ordinariness.
A disciple of His Divine Grace Prabhupad came to see me. Prabhupad is the founder of the Krishna Consciousness movement. Naturally, to be respectful to me, he also called me His Divine Grace. I said, “Don’t call me that; just call me ‘his Divine Ordinariness’.” The ordinary is the extraordinary. The ordinary has not to be destroyed. Once the ordinary is in the service of the extraordinary it is beautiful, it is tremendously beautiful.
Let me repeat: the trivial is the profound, samsara is nirvana. Whatsoever you are, there is nothing wrong with it. Just something is missing. Nothing wrong with it! Something is simply missing. Just that missing link has to be provided, that plus, and everything that you have becomes divine.
Love has not to be destroyed; only awareness has to be added to it. Relationship has not to be destroyed; only meditation has to be added to it. You need not go from the marketplace; you need not go to any cave and in the Himalayas; only God has to be called there in the marketplace.
The bottle is beautiful, nothing is wrong in it. You just have to learn that you can come out of it whenever you want and you can go into it whenever you want, that it is your pleasure. It is almost like the house. When you feel too cool or cold in the house, freezing cold, you get out under the sky, under the sun, to warm yourself. Then it becomes too warm and you start perspiring; you go into the house. You are free. The same door takes you out, the same door takes you in, and the house is not the enemy.
But if you cannot get out of the house, then something is wrong. There is no need to leave the house, there is no need to drop being a householder. There is only one thing needed: in the house become a sannyasin, in the world remain in such a way that the world is not in you. See, the goose is out. In fact, the goose has always been out, just a recognition is needed.
From The First Principle, Discourse #9
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