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Chapter 5: Is He Dead?

If you go to a master, learn to be attentive to his presence; don’t be too head-oriented - and don’t insist, because every answer can be given only when the time is ripe. Don’t insist, because it is not a question of your insistence; a right thing can be given only when you are ready, when you are ripe. So when you are near a master you can ask a question - but then wait. You have asked, then he knows. Even if you have not asked, he knows what is troubling you within. But he cannot give you anything right now - you may not be ready; and if you are not ready and something is given it will not reach you, because only in a certain readiness can certain things penetrate you. When you are ripe you can understand. When you are ready, you are open, receptive. The answer will be given, but not in words; the master will reveal it in many ways. He can do it. He can devise many methods to indicate it, but then you will have to be ready.

Just because you have asked a question doesn’t mean that you are ready. You can ask a question - even children can raise questions so mysterious that even a buddha will be unable to answer them. But just because you have asked, just because you are articulate enough to form a question, does not mean that you are ready, because questions come out of many many sources. Sometimes you are simply curious. A master is not there to fulfill your curiosities, because they are childish. Sometimes you really never meant it. Just by the way you asked, you showed you were not concerned and you are not going to use the answer in any way. Somebody is dead and you simply ask the question, “What is death?” - and by the next moment you have forgotten it.

Curiosity is one thing - it is childish and no master is going to waste his breath on your curiosities. When you ask a certain thing it may be just intellectual, philosophic; you are interested, but intellectually - you would like an answer just to become more knowledgeable, but your being will remain unaffected. Then a master is not interested, because he is interested only in your being. When you ask a question in such a way as if your life and death depend on it, then if you don’t receive the answer you will miss, your whole being will remain hungry for it; you are thirsty, your whole being is ready to receive it, and if the answer is given you will digest it, it will become your blood and your bones and move into the very beat of your heart; only then will a master be ready to answer you.

You ask a question.then the master will try to help you to become ready to receive the answer. Between your question and the master’s answer there may be a great gap. You ask today and he may answer you after twelve years, because you have to be ready to receive it; you have to be open, not closed, and you have to be ready to absorb it to the very depth of your being.

Now try to understand this parable:

At the death of a parishioner, Master Dogo, accompanied by his disciple Zengen, visited the bereaved family.
Without taking time to express a word of sympathy, Zengen went up to the coffin, rapped on it, and asked Dogo: “Is he really dead?”

The first thing: when death is there you have to be very respectful because death is no ordinary phenomenon, it is the most extraordinary phenomenon in the world. Nothing is more mysterious than death. Death reaches to the very center of existence, and when a man is dead you are moving on sacred ground: it is the holiest moment possible. No, ordinary curiosities cannot be allowed. They are disrespectful.

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