Chapter 14: Zen Is for Nobodies
Ungo Doyo was the chief disciple of Tozan. When he first met Tozan, he was asked, “What is your name?”
He answered, “Doyo.”
Tozan said, “Tell me transcendentally!”
Ungo replied, “Speaking transcendentally, my name is Doyo.”
Tozan said, “When I saw my master, my answer was no different.”
Ungo remained with Tozan many years. Tozan never had less than one thousand, five hundred disciples, of whom twenty-eight were enlightened.
After Ungo had realized his own enlightenment and became a master, a monk asked him a question.
Ungo said, “You are a fool!”
The monk said, “So are you!”
“What is the meaning of ‘fool’?” asked Ungo.
The monk danced.
Off he went, and Ungo praised him, in his absence, saying, “After all, everybody is out to get something, though of course Zen-getting is a no-getting.”
On another occasion, an official said to Ungo: “The world-honored one had a secret message. Mahakashyapa did not keep it a secret. What is this secret word of Buddha?”
Ungo called to him, “Your honor!”
He answered, “Yes?”
Ungo said, “You understand?”
“No,” he replied.
Ungo said, “If you don’t understand, that is Buddha’s secret word; if you do, that is Mahakashyapa’s not keeping it a secret.”
Maneesha, it will be very difficult to understand this small anecdote without going back twenty-five centuries to Gautam Buddha and Mahakashyapa.
It must have been an assembly like this - utterly silent and waiting for Gautam Buddha to come. He was going to give his morning sermon, as usual - but he was late that day. Waiting became intense.also there was some fear: “Has some accident happened? Why isn’t he on time? In his forty-two years of teaching he has never missed, even on one occasion. Why is he late?”
But it was no ordinary gathering of spectators. These were people who were seeking and inquiring about their own being, and perhaps they thought, “This is one of the ways of Gautam Buddha - for us to learn how to wait silently, without asking.”
And very unexpectedly, Gautam Buddha appeared with a roseflower in his hand. It was such an extraordinary event because Buddha had never come the way he came that day. He had always come with empty hands. Holding a beautiful roseflower. Everybody must have thought - if you had been present you would have thought - “Perhaps he is going to say something about the rose.”
But he was not a poet. He was not a painter. What could he say about the rose? And he did not talk either. He simply sat in his place and went on looking at the roseflower, making everybody almost crazy. What has happened to him? This is the time to speak to the commune and he is looking at the roseflower without even uttering a single word. There is a point of waiting. People became very impatient. One could feel the impatience all around.
At this moment, Mahakashyapa, who had never spoken a word before nor after, laughed loudly. He had been a disciple of Gautam Buddha for twenty years. He had never asked a question. He used to sit under a special tree; it had almost become his monopoly. Nobody ever sat under that tree. Everybody knew: “Mahakashyapa will be coming, his place has to be left.”