Chapter 14: Zen Is for Nobodies
But his place was very strange. He was a prince before he renounced his kingdom - just like Gautam Buddha - well educated and cultured in all the ways of religion and philosophy. But it is strange that for twenty years he had been just sitting there, not asking even a single question.
And suddenly today, when everybody is impatiently waiting for Buddha to speak, this strange fellow Mahakashyapa starts laughing. He had not even laughed for twenty years.
This incident is the beginning of a very special branch of mystics called Zen.
Mahakashyapa was called by Gautam Buddha to come close to him. Buddha offered the roseflower to him and the sermon was over.
Without a single word being uttered, something was transferred; something as beautiful as a roseflower can represent - invisible, perhaps, like the fragrance of a rose. Mahakashyapa bowed down, touched his feet, took the rose on his head and went back to his tree. And the whole audience of ten thousand monks simply watched this drama.
Buddha left his seat. Ananda, who used to declare Buddha’s coming, or the subject on which he was going to speak, announced that the sermon was over.
Since that day, for twenty-five centuries those who have been interested in Gautam Buddha and his teachings have been asking again and again, “What has been transferred? What was it that Buddha gave to Mahakashyapa? And why did Mahakashyapa laugh?”
Mahakashyapa is accepted as the first Zen master: Gautam Buddha has opened a new dimension of search where not words are needed, but silence. Where you can say only without saying, where to say anything is to miss. Yes, you can laugh, you can dance; because while you are laughing, in its totality mind stops, time stops and your whole being melts into one unity, into one organism. Otherwise you are a crowd: your one hand is going to the south, your other hand is going to the north, your head is scattered into thousands of pieces.
But a good belly laugh, and everything comes back, and suddenly you are united. Laughter is the beginning of Zen.
And Mahakashyapa laughed at the impatience of people - because Gautam Buddha had never given as much as he was giving that day in his silence. Hi is simply saying: “Watch, be a witness. Don’t say a word. Just be, and this very moment you are enlightened.”
After this background, it will be easy for you to understand the anecdote that Maneesha has placed here.
Ungo Doyo was the chief disciple of Tozan. When he first met Tozan, he was asked, “What is your name?”