Chapter 9: Scratching the Shoe
In the ordinary world, language is needed - language has been invented for this ordinary world, this day-to-day world. But language is not for the eternal. There you don’t purchase anything. There you are not talking to anybody in particular, you are simply in communion with existence itself. There is no need to talk; words are not needed at all. This is the first thing to be understood: language has certain utilities, and because of those utilities has certain limitations.
Existence does not understand your language. Language is human, existence is far wider - it is not confined to the human.
Just the other night, I was reading a book of a Russian existentialist, Nikolai Berdyaev. He is an existentialist, he comes very close to the Zen standpoint - but just close; he does not penetrate it totally. He says that in the old days mystics used to think that knowledge is divine. He feels that is inadequate, because knowledge, to be knowledge of the ultimate and the total, must be human too. Otherwise the human should be excluded from it. So how can knowledge be only divine? It should be human-divine - man should be included in it.
That’s true - but there he stops. Why not include animals too? Why not include trees too? Why not include minerals too? They also exist; they cannot be excluded. Berdyaev says that knowledge, to be total, should be human-divine. I will say it should be mineral, vegetable, animal, human, divine - plus. If something is left, that has to be included in it too.
But language is human. No animal understands your language, trees don’t bother about your language, rocks won’t listen to your language - won’t understand either. Even all human beings don’t understand one language; there are thousands of languages on this small planet. So language is a human invention, very local. Existence is very big, huge; we are just small particles in it. This, our earth, is a very small planet. Very small. Even our sun is a very small mediocre star. Bigger suns exist. Infinity surrounds us; we should not be very provincial.
That’s what Zen means when it says language cannot express the truth. Language is a very provincial thing, local - an invention of humanity. If humanity disappears, all languages will disappear. Existence will continue. Existence was there before man entered, existence will be there if a third world war happens and man disappears and commits suicide. Trees will go on blooming, spring will come, flowers will bloom, birds will sing. The moon will be in the night, the sun will be in the morning. Nobody is going to miss you, remember; things will all be as they are. Man is so small..
But because we live in a human world, we live with people, we start thinking as if man is all. So language becomes very important. This you can watch. Have you ever seen Zen pictures? - you will see it in Zen pictures too. When people look at a Zen painting they are always surprised, and a little restless, because they cannot see the point of it. If you see a Zen painting, the whole painting is not painted; the canvas is left empty - almost ninety percent empty. Just in a small corner below, there is a small painting. In that painting also, there are huge mountains, big trees, rivers - and man is very tiny like an ant. A small boat, and just a dot-like man is sitting there.