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Chapter 12: Behind Those Reflecting Eyes

Now you can understand what Banzan is saying. He is saying, “This lunatic has done the thing. He has shown me the way: ‘Don’t bother, just turn a somersault and go out! It is time to go out, you have lived in the body enough. What are you going to do with the portrait now?’”

But only people deeply nourished in Zen will be able to understand why Banzan says that Fuke “will pervert the true way from now on” - because many will follow what he has done. In this moment it is spontaneous; from now on, anybody doing it will be just imitating. He has done it so perfectly that there is every possibility he will be imitated - and that imitation is the perversion of the true way.

When Rinzai was dying he asked his disciples, “I have always lived my life authentically and originally. Now, I don’t know how to die originally. You are my disciples - will someone suggest a way?”

Just see the point: that even death is just a game. “Will someone suggest how I should die? - so nobody can say that I was not original.”

The disciples looked at each other. It was a very difficult question. Almost ninety-nine point nine percent of people die lying on the bed - but that is not original, that is a very traditional way of dying.

Someone suggested, “An ancient monk died sitting in the lotus posture.”

Rinzai said, “If somebody has died sitting in the lotus posture, now it is no longer original. Suggest something that is original.”

Somebody suggested, “You can die standing.”

But a monk said, “I have heard about a monk dying standing, so I don’t think that is original.”

Rinzai said, “Such a difficulty! Can’t anyone suggest a way to me, in my old age? I have been teaching you my whole life and you cannot even help me to die originally?”

One disciple said, “The only thing I can conceive is to die standing on your head. I don’t think anybody has done that before.”

Rinzai said, “That sounds right. Is there any objection?”

And there was no objection from his thousands of disciples, so he decided to stand on his head and die. And he stood on his head and died!

Now the disciples were in difficulty: “What to do with such a man? Is he really dead? Can somebody die and still remain standing on his head? Should we burn him, or wait? Perhaps he is not dead.”

They tried in every way to find out: “The breathing is not there, the heartbeat is not there, and my God, he is standing on his head!” Even people who are alive and are not practicing yoga will find it very difficult to stand on their heads. And dead people don’t practice yoga.

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