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Chapter 8: Tozan’s Five Pounds

Tozan said: “This flax weighs five pounds.”

One thing he said: that this very ordinary life is Buddha, this very ordinary life is truth, this very ordinary life is Brahma, is the kingdom of God. There is no other life except this; there is no that, only this exists. Hindus say, “That exists, this is illusion”; Tozan said, “This is true, that is illusion. This very moment is truth, and don’t ask for any extraordinary thing.”

Seekers always ask for something extraordinary, because ego feels fulfilled only when something extraordinary is given. You come to a master and you ask questions, and if he says such things you will think he is mad, or joking, or not a man worthy to be asked. You will simply escape. Why? - because he shatters your ego completely. You were asking Buddha, you were desiring Buddha, you would like to be a buddha yourself; hence the question. And this man says: What nonsense you are asking! Not even worth answering! This flax weighs five pounds. This is more important than any buddha. This moment, this flax, is the whole of existence. In this five pounds of flax is centered the whole being of the world - here and now. Don’t go astray; don’t ask philosophical questions. Look at this moment.

Tozan did a wonderful thing. Tozan is a buddha. Tozan weighing flax is Buddha weighing flax - and reality is one! Tozan is Buddha, and the flax is also Buddha; and in that moment it weighed five pounds. That was the truth, the facticity of the moment. But if you are filled with philosophy you will think this man is mad and you will go away.

This happened to Arthur Koestler, one of the keenest intellects in the West. He missed the whole point completely. When he went to Japan to study Zen he thought: These people are simply mad - or else they are joking, not serious at all. He wrote a book, Against Zen. It looks absurd. It is. He is wrong, and yet right. It is absurd. If you don’t know the language of Zen it is absurd; if you are identified too much with logical thinking, it is absurd. It is illogical - what more illogical thing can you find: somebody asking, “What is Buddha?” and somebody answering, “This flax weighs five pounds”?