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Chapter 4: Always Now and Here

Hyakujo and a Wild Duck
When Basho was out walking with Hyakujo he saw a wild duck fly past.
Basho said, “What is it?”
Hyakujo said, “It is a wild duck.”
Basho said, “Where is it?”
Hyakujo said, “It has flown away.”
Basho at last gave Hyakujo’s nose a sharp pinch. Hyakujo cried out with pain.
Basho said, “There, how can it fly away?”

Setcho says:

The wild duck! What, how and where?
Basho has seen, talked, taught and exhausted the meaning of mountain clouds and moonlit seas.
But Jo doesn’t understand - “has flown away.”
Flown away? No, he is brought back!
Say! Say!

Basho is said to have been the first Zen master to use hits, pinches, shouts and pushes to bring a disciple to the present. But such methods leave themselves open to abuse and to becoming simply a tradition.
You seem to devise a different method every day to outsmart us.
You are always at least one step ahead of us!
What do you say?

Maneesha, before Zen master Niskriya takes care of you, I would like to answer this beautiful anecdote.. Basho has tremendous respect in my heart. He is not only a mystic, a master, he is also a poet, a painter, a sculptor; he is a creative phenomenon. Nobody can compare with him as far as his multidimensional personality is concerned.

Bodhidharma is the greatest peak but he is one-dimensional. Basho is not that great a peak but he has a different quality of greatness that is his multidimensionality. Just as Bodhidharma is unique so is Basho. His statements have to be listened to very carefully. He speaks as Basho should speak - he is the very essence of Zen.

If Bodhidharma is the founder then Basho is the flower. He has the fragrance which only a flower can have. That fragrance is manifested in his poetry, in his small statements, in his every gesture. Even in his ordinary talks with people he cannot be other than Basho.

This small anecdote would have been forgotten if Basho were not there. There is nothing new in it but Basho gives it new meaning. There is nothing philosophical or mystical in it, but Basho makes it a mystery. You will have to be very silently aware to see what a great master is..

Bodhidharma is very raw. He smells of the earth when the first rain clouds come - and a beautiful smell out of the earth. Basho is far more refined, perhaps the most refined Zen master up to now. His refinement is in his cultured, meditative spaciousness. Out of that spaciousness many flowers have showered on the world. It does not matter wherever he is and whatever is going on, Basho is going to make it a Zen state of affairs. That uniqueness will not be found again.

Just think of this Hyakujo and a wild duck..

When Basho was out walking with Hyakujo he saw a wild duck flying past.
Basho said, “What is it?”

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