Chapter 7: I Have Heard
The Venerable Master said:
The unfoldment of man’s mind leads him to this unchanging truth.
In unchanging stillness, unchanging purity and rest are found.
He who attains purity and stillness enters into the immutable Tao.
Having entered into the immutable Tao he is named the possessor of Tao.
Although he is named the possessor of Tao he knows that he does not possess it.
Only when he can transmute all living things can he be truly named the possessor of Tao.
He who is able to understand this can lead others to sacred Tao.
Ko Hsuan’s sutras always begin with this immensely significant statement:
The Venerable Master said.
But it seems that the translation is literally true, but not true to the spirit of the sutras. All the Buddhist sutras start in the same way - only with a little difference, but a difference that makes great difference. The Buddhist sutras begin: “I have heard the master say.” And you can see the difference. The master may have said it for a different reason, the master may have meant something totally different. The master exists on a different plane; he speaks from the peak, the ultimate peak of consciousness. And the disciple hears from the darkest valley of his existence. By the time the words reach to the disciple they are bound to be distorted, they are bound to take many colors which will be imposed and projected by the disciple.
Hence, my feeling is that Ko Hsuan cannot commit this mistake. It must be that the translator has missed the point; the point is very subtle. It seems simply to the ordinary mind to make no difference whether one says, “I have heard the master say,” or “The venerable master said.” But when you say, “The venerable master said,” you are making an absolutely certain statement as if you can report it authentically. It is not possible: you can report only what you have heard.
Now, here you are listening to me, nearabout three thousand sannyasins. Each sannyasin will listen according to his own conditioning, according to his own state of mind, according to his own prejudices, concepts, ideologies, philosophies, according to his own background. If you don’t have any background, if you have transcended all concepts, ideologies, philosophies, religions, if you are no more in the mind, then you can hear exactly that which is said. But then there is no need to hear it; then you yourself know it. Then Ko Hsuan will not say, “The venerable master said,” he can simply state the sutras. Then it will be his own experience. He is very close to the peak and finally he reached to the peak, but these notes were made before he himself became an enlightened master. These notes are of a disciple, and you should remember it.
Whenever you report me, always remember that you have heard. You cannot be certain whether it was said exactly the way you have heard or not.
In Italy, on the bus next to the driver there is the following note: “Do not talk to the driver.”
In Germany there is: “It is forbidden to talk to the driver.”
In England: “It is not polite to talk to the driver.”