Chapter 8: Zen without Writing
The Zen master Mu-nan had only one successor. His name was Shoju. After Shoju had completed his study of Zen, Mu-nan called him into his room and said, “I am getting old, and as far as I know you are the only one who will carry on this teaching. Here is a book. It has been passed down from master to master for seven generations, and I have also added many points according to my understanding. This book is very precious, and I am giving it to you to represent your successorship.”
Shoju replied, “Please keep the book. I received your Zen without writing, and I was very happy with it, thank you.”
Mu-nan replied, “I know that, but this great work has been carried from master to master for seven generations, and it will be a symbol of your learning. Here, take the book.”
The two were talking in front of a fire, and the instant Shoju felt the book in his hands he thrust it into the flames.
Mu-nan, who had never in his life been angry before, shouted, “What are you doing?”
And Shoju shouted back, “And what are you saying?”
All books are dead, and that is how it should be; they cannot be alive. All scriptures are graveyards, they cannot be anything else. The moment a word is uttered it goes wrong. Unuttered, it is okay; uttered, it is falsified by the very utterance. Truth cannot be said, cannot be written, cannot be indicated in any way. If it can be said, then you will attain to truth just by hearing it; if it can be written, you will attain to truth just by reading it; if it can be indicated, you will attain to truth by mere indication. This is not possible, there is no way to transfer truth to you; there exists no bridge. It cannot be given, it cannot be communicated.
But people become addicted to scriptures, books, words, theories. For the mind it is easy to understand a theory, it is easy to read a book, it is easy to carry a tradition, because with anything dead mind is always the master; with anything alive mind becomes the slave.
So mind is always afraid of life; it is the dead part in you. Just as I said that hairs and nails are dead parts of your body, the parts that have died already and that the body is throwing out, so mind is the dead part of your consciousness. It is the part that has already become dead, and the consciousness wants to get rid of it.
What is the mind? It is the past, the memory, it is the accumulated experience. But the moment you have experienced the thing it is dead. Experiencing is in the present, experience is in the past.
Why are you listening to me? Just in the moment, just here and now, it is an experiencing, it is an alive process. But the moment you say, “I have heard,” it has become dead, it has become an experience. While listening to me the mind is not there, you are there. The moment the mind comes in it says, “I have understood, I have heard, I know.” What do you mean? The mind has taken possession. The word can be possessed by the mind - anything dead can be possessed by the mind; and only dead things can be possessed. If you try to possess a live thing there are only two ways: either you will not be able to possess it, or you will have to kill it first and then you can possess it. So wherever there is possession, there is murdering, killing.