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Chapter 10: The Alchemy of Celebration

You must have seen the ten ox-herding pictures of Zen. They are beautiful. In the first picture, the bull is lost. The bull is a symbol of self, and the owner of the bull is in search. He goes into the forest; he cannot see where the bull has escaped, where the bull is hiding, but he goes on searching. In the next picture he finds the footprints of the bull. In the third picture he sees, somewhere far away, just the back of the bull; he can see the tail. In the fourth picture he can see the whole bull and he catches hold of the tail. In the fifth he has tamed the bull. In the sixth he rides on the bull toward home. This is the way the story goes. In the seventh the bull is transcended, and in the eighth the bull and the owner of the bull have both disappeared. In the ninth picture, the world starts appearing again: trees, mountains, flowers, but you cannot see the bull or the bull-owner. In the tenth picture the bull-owner is back and is standing in the market-place. Not only is he standing in the market-place, but he is carrying a bottle of alcohol.

In the olden days only eight pictures existed. The eighth picture is empty; nothing is there. That is the highest peak of meditation, where everything disappears; the seeker and the sought, everything disappears - just emptiness. But then a great Zen master felt that this was incomplete. The circle was not complete: one had to come back to the world. Mountains are good, but the circle was incomplete if you remained in the mountains. One had to come to the market place. Then he added two more pictures, and I feel that he did well. Now the circle is complete. You start from the market-place and you come back to the market-place. The market is the same, but you are not the same. The world remains the same, but you are not the same. One has to come back to it.

This is how it has always happened. Mahavira left - for twelve years he remained in silence in the mountains, in the forest. Then, suddenly, one day he was back in the market-place. Buddha left - for six years he remained in isolation. Then one day, suddenly he was in the marketplace standing and gathering people to tell them what had happened to him. Jesus went to the mountains for forty days. But how can you live in the mountains forever? - the circle will be incomplete. Whatsoever you attain in the mountains has to be given back to the market.

The first thing is: don’t be antagonistic to the market. The whole world is a market. Antagonism is not good. And what is wrong with being a box of corn flakes? Corn flakes are wonderful! They have as much possibility of Buddhahood as you.

I must tell you a few anecdotes.

One Zen master, Lin Chi, was weighing flax. One seeker came while he was weighing flax and asked, “I am in a hurry and I cannot wait, but I have a question to ask. What is buddhahood?” The master didn’t even look at the seeker; he continued weighing and he said, “One pound of flax.”

It has become a code in Zen - one pound of flax. Then why not one pound of corn flakes? Even flax has the possibility, the potentiality of buddhahood. Everything is holy and divine. When you condemn something, something is wrong with you.

Once, Lin Chi was sitting under a tree and a man asked, “Is there any possibility for a dog to become a buddha? Can a dog become a buddha? Is a dog potentially a buddha also?” What did Lin Chi do? - he jumped on all fours and he barked, “Woof, woof!” He became a dog and he said, “Yes, nothing is wrong, nothing is wrong at all in being a dog.”

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