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Chapter 6: Understanding Comes in Mid-sentence

A man who does not believe in God cannot believe in devils. A man who is capable of denying God is certainly capable of denying all devils. And his only answer could have been the one which he gave in the basic sutra. Without any doubt his answer would have been, “You should not worship any buddhas because you are a buddha. It is simply ridiculous that a buddha worships another buddha.”

I am reminded of another Zen master. He must have been a man of some similar qualities to Bodhidharma; he was a disciple in the same lineage. He was staying in a Buddhist temple on a winter night - the priest, knowing that he was a great master had allowed him to stay in the temple. But in the middle of the night the priest woke up. Suddenly there was so much light. He looked inside the temple.because his room was by the side of the temple. The master he had allowed to stay in the temple was enjoying burning a beautiful statue, a wooden statue of Gautam Buddha.

The priest was simply mad. He said, “Are you insane or something? You have burnt the statue of Gautam Buddha.” The master took his staff and started searching for something in the ashes of the burned statue. The priest said, “What are you searching for?” He said, “I am looking for the bones.”

Even the priest had to laugh, although he was angry and his most beautiful statue had been burned. But he said, “You are really insane. But how can a wooden statue have bones?”

The master said, “That’s what I have been showing you; that if there are no bones inside it, it is not the statue of Buddha. It is not Buddha; it is just wood cut into a certain shape. Don’t be deceived by it. The night is long and it is too cold and I am so tired of this long journey. If you can be of some help.you have still got three more statues. One is enough for worshipping, two you can give me. The night is really cold. Moreover I am a living buddha. For a living buddha it is absolutely right to burn a wooden buddha to have a little heat. It is too cold in this temple.”

The priest became very afraid that this man seemed to be absolutely dangerous and thought, “If I go to sleep, he is going to burn all my statues.” In the middle of the night he threw the master out of the temple. The master was insisting, “This is not right. Listen, you will repent of it. You are throwing a living buddha into the darkness of the night, into the cold winter night. And you are protecting wooden buddhas. Are you mad or something?”

The priest said, “I don’t want to discuss it with you. I know who is mad. You just get out.”

In the morning the priest opened the door to see at what had happened to the master. He was sitting by the side of the road. He had picked a few wild flowers and he had put those wildflowers on a milestone. He was worshipping, “Buddham sharanam, gachchhami. Sangham sharanam gachchhami. Dhammam sharanam gachchhami.”

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