Chapter 15: Truth as It Is - Naked
The first question:
A Zen saying is: Better to see the face than to hear the words. Wouldn’t it be better to see the face and to hear the words?
It is one thing to understand words, it is a totally different experience to understand the statements made by mystics. The words are simple. Anybody can understand them, but the implications can be understood only by those who have experienced the same kind of consciousness out of which those words have flowed.
This Zen saying is one of the most significant sayings: Better to see the face.
By “the face” is meant your original face - not the face that is reflected in the mirror, not the face this is reflected in other people’s eyes, but the face that you had even before your parents were born, the face that you will have when your body has gone back to the dust, when you are dead. “The original face” is a Zen way of speaking about your spiritual reality, about your innermost truth, about your individuality. The face that you are acquainted with is your personality. The word personality comes from a Greek root persona. Persona means a mask.
Personality is a mask, and you don’t have one personality either, you have many, for different purposes. You are continuously changing your personalities every moment. As the situation changes, your personality changes. Your mask is not one, there are many masks. When you are in need and you approach a friend, you have a different face. when your friend is in need and he approaches you, you have a totally different face. These two faces are not the same at all, and for each situation you have a mask appropriate for it. and amidst this crowd of masks your original face is lost. You are more concerned with what people say about you. Why? - because their eyes, their opinions, their ideas give you your face. Your face is borrowed. If somebody says you are beautiful, you are happy. If somebody says you are ugly, disgusting, you are unhappy.
Your face is dependent on what others say about you. If they call you a saint you start flying above the clouds. And if they call you a sinner, you are crushed below the earth. You don’t know who you are, hence so much concern with other’s opinions, so much concern with mirrors.
Your whole idea about yourself is borrowed - borrowed from those people who have no idea who they are themselves. It is a very strange world, very insane.
The saying can be understood very easily. That’s what Casper Vogel has done, he thinks he understands.