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Chapter 38: Transformation

When you heard me say, “Where are there old adepts appearing in the world?” you should have spit right in my face.

These are special ways of Zen; they are not understandable outside the world of Zen. Now Ta Hui is a master and he is saying, “When I was talking nonsense, if you were a real man you would have spit right in my face. You could have stopped me.”

It happened that one bishop in Japan wanted very much to see a Zen master, Lin Chi. He had heard much about him, and he was certain that if he went to him with The Bible and read a few beautiful statements of Jesus, particularly the Sermon on the Mount, he was sure that he could convert Lin Chi into being a Christian. And to convert Lin Chi meant converting thousands of his followers; even the emperor of Japan was one of his disciples. Going into the mountains and doing the tedious journey was worth it.

The bishop reached Lin Chi and said that he wanted to read a few sentences from his master, that he hoped that Lin Chi would like them, and that he wanted also to know what Lin Chi thinks about them. And he started to read those beautiful statements of Jesus. When he had read two or three statements, before he could go further, Lin Chi said, “Stop all this nonsense! Whoever has said these words will become a buddha in some future life, but right now it is all gibberish. Just take it away.”

The bishop could not believe it; it was not mannerly. Lin Chi could have disagreed, he could have at least been polite. But people don’t understand that Zen does not believe in being polite, it believes in being authentic. It is not important to follow the etiquette of the society; to Lin Chi what is important is to state exactly what he feels and what he sees.

Lin Chi said, “These statements right now are meaningless. But whoever has said them - I don’t know him and I don’t want to know him - will become a buddha in a future life. He is on the right lines, but he has to travel much.” In Zen it is understood that there is no question of manners, there is no question of etiquette. Those are all part of the ordinary society.

So when Ta Hui says, “If you were really a man of meditation.There were many moments when I was talking nonsense, when I was only an intellectual but speaking as if I knew, and I knew nothing. You remained silent and you heard me as if a buddha was speaking to you. If you had known a little bit of meditation, you would have spit right in my face.”

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