Chapter 9: Symbols of the Tiredness of Man
And Zen says that mind may be useful in the world but is not useful as far as the ultimate is concerned. Mind may be useful with the trivia but is useless with the ultimate. The ultimate cam lot be thought because it is below and beyond thought. You are that ultimate, how can you think it? Before thought comes you are already that. Thought is a later addition to it. The child is born - he is the ultimate. Thought will could by and by; he will accumulate knowledge, he’ll write many things on his slate of being. And he will become a knower - this and that - and he will get identified with being a doctor or an engineer or a professor. But the moment he was born he was just pure awareness, just a freshness, a clean slate, nothing written on it, not even his own signature. He had no name and he had no idea who he was.
That is primal innocence, and that is our ultimate. Our ultimate being is before thought and after thought. Not that it disappears when thought is there, but it becomes clouded - just like the sun surrounded by too many clouds, dark clouds. It appears as if the sun has disappeared. We never lose our ultimacy, we cannot. That’s what ultimacy is - it cannot be lost. It is our innermost nature. There is no way to lose it. But it can become clouded. The flame can become too clouded with smoke; can almost be thought of as lost. The sun can be so clouded that it appears as if it has become dark night. That’s the situation. We are before thought, we are while thought is there, we will be there when thought has disappeared - we are always there. But when thought is there it is very difficult to how who we are, what exactly this consciousness is. Thought is a distraction. Thought is a disturbance.
It is only when thought is again not there that we come into contact with it. If one thinks about it one can think and think and think but it eludes thought. It goes on slipping out of it. And then seeing that thinking is not leading anywhere it stops on its own accord. If one really goes on thinking to the very end, a state of non-thinking happens automatically. This end of the thinking comes finally and naturally - that’s what Zen proposes.
The method of Zen is called koan. It is a special method, the greatest contribution of Zen to the world. Koan is a special method to Zen just like there are other methods to other schools - for example, vipassana, insight, is Buddha’s method which he has contributed to the world - watchfulness. Jalaluddin, the Sufi mystic, has contributed another method - that of absorption, of getting lost into God, of losing one’s sense of being. There are other methods of Sufi’s - zikr, remembrance of the name of God, or the turn, the whirling. Just like these methods are the yoga postures of Patanjali - a special contribution to the world. All great religions have contributed something or other.
The special contribution of Zen is koan. Koan is a riddle and a very special riddle - a riddle which is impossible to solve, a riddle which cannot be solved by its very formation. You go on thinking. You have to think and ponder and meditate over it.
For example, a koan is given to the disciple to go and meditate on the sound of one hand clapping. Now one hand cam lot clap - so from the very beginning a solution is prohibited, rejected. One hand cannot make the sound of clapping. Clapping needs at least two hands. Clapping means the clapping of two. Clapping is a conflict, it cannot happen with one hand.