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Chapter 10: The Master of Silence

If you look at Japanese and Chinese paintings of Buddha, they don’t look like the Indian Buddha. They have changed him totally. If you look at Indian paintings of Buddha, his body is proportionate, as it should be. He was a prince, then a buddha - a beautiful man, perfect, proportionate. But look at a Japanese painting of Buddha: they have distorted the whole thing. A big-belly? Buddha never had a big belly. In Japanese paintings, scriptures, he is painted with a big belly, because a man who laughs must have a big belly. Belly laughter - how can you do it with a small belly? You cannot do it. They are joking with Buddha, and they have said such things about Buddha - only very deep love can do that, otherwise it looks insulting.

Bankei always insisted on having a painting of Buddha just behind him, and talking to his disciples he would say, “Look at this fellow. Whenever you meet him kill him immediately, don’t give him a chance. While meditating he will come to disturb you. Whenever you see his face in meditation, just kill him then and there; otherwise he will follow you.” And he used to say, “Look at this fellow! If you repeat his name” - because Buddhists go on repeating, Namo Buddhaya, Namo Buddhaya - “if you repeat his name, then go and wash your mouth.” It looks insulting. It is Buddha’s name and this man says, “If you repeat it, the first thing to do is wash your mouth. Your mouth has become dirty.”

And he is right - because words are words; whether it is the name of Buddha or not makes no difference. Whenever a word crosses your mind, your mind has become dirty. Wash it. Wash out even Buddha’s name. And this man, keeping the portrait of Buddha always behind him, would bow down to it every morning. So his disciples asked, “What are you doing? You go on telling us: Kill this man, don’t allow him to stand in the way. And you say: Don’t take his name, don’t repeat it; if it comes wash your mouth. And now we see you bowing down.”

So Bankei said, “All this has been taught to me by this man, this fellow, so I have to pay respect.”

Mahakashyapa laughed, and this laughter carries many dimensions in it. One, at the foolishness of the whole situation: a buddha silent and no-body understanding him, everybody expecting him to speak. His whole life Buddha had been saying that the truth cannot be spoken, and still everybody expected him to speak.

The second dimension - he laughed at Buddha also, at the whole dramatic situation he had created, sitting there with a flower in his hand, looking at the flower, creating so much uneasiness, restlessness in everybody. At this dramatic gesture of Buddha he laughed.

The third dimension - he laughed at his own self. Why couldn’t he understand up to now? The whole thing was easy and simple. And the day you understand, you will laugh, because there is nothing to be understood, there is no riddle to be solved. Everything has always been simple and clear. How could you miss it?

With Buddha sitting silent, the birds singing in the trees, the breeze passing through the trees, and everybody restless, Mahakashyapa understood. What did he understand? He understood that there is nothing to be understood, there is nothing to be said, there is nothing to be explained. The whole situation is simple and transparent, nothing is hidden in it. There is no need to search, because all that is, is here and now, within you. He laughed at his own self also, at the whole absurd effort of many lives: just to understand this silence, so much thinking?

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