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Chapter 1: One Short Note

Zen is the most subtle teaching. The word zen comes from dhyana. The teaching was born with Buddha in India, but then unfortunately India became non-receptive, and Buddha’s disciples had to seek in China people who were more receptive to it.

Buddha has said many things, but he has never said a single word about truth. He talked his whole life; for forty years after his enlightenment he talked every day continually, but he has not said a single word about truth. Whenever somebody would ask, “What is truth?” he would remain silent.

Then one day it happened. He sat under a tree. Many people had gathered; all his disciples were present and they were waiting for him to say something. But he would not say anything, he simply sat there. He had a flower in his hand, a lotus flower. It is very significant, because in the East the lotus flower is the symbol of ultimate flowering. In the East, the highest peak of your being is thought to be like a lotus. It is. When your final peak comes, inside your being a flower starts opening. And then it goes on opening and opening and opening: from perfection to more perfection and still more perfection, there is no end to it. This lotus is called sahasrar, the one-thousand-petaled lotus.

Buddha came with a lotus; he sat under a tree and he looked at the lotus as if he had forgotten about the ten thousand people who had gathered there - who were there, and they were waiting impatiently. Moments passed, then hours started passing and people became very uneasy. It was as if Buddha had forgotten completely about them.

He is there, the flower is there, and he is so attentive to the flower that it seems that even the boundaries between Buddha and the flower are lost. Then suddenly one disciple - his name is Mahakashyapa - starts laughing loudly. It is unbelievable because this Mahakashyapa is such a silent one, nobody has ever seen him laughing; and such a belly laugh, as if he has gone mad. Everybody looks at him. Buddha calls him near, Mahakashyapa comes. Buddha gives the flower to Mahakashyapa and tells the assembly, “Whatsoever can be said I have told you, and whatsoever cannot be said I have given to Mahakashyapa - and this is the real teaching.”

For thousands of years now Buddhists all over the world have been asking: What was given to Mahakashyapa? What was it? It became one of the most penetrating questions. Buddha told Mahakashyapa to find a man who could receive this lotus. Mahakashyapa found a man. For a few hundred years others could also, then others, but the sixth master, Bodhidharma, could not find a single man in the whole of India. He wandered around with a lotus. He went to every village, he knocked on every door; he couldn’t find a man to commune with, to say that which cannot be said. Nobody was ready to receive the real teaching.

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