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Chapter 8: Off to Hell - Yo ho!

Now this man, Lo-shan, is going to die. He gathers all his disciples. He opens one of his hands, nobody understands. He is saying, “With an open hand I lived, with an open hand I am going. Totally I lived, totally I am going. I was never closed. Now death is knocking on the door, my doors are open.” Then he raised his other hand. People did not understand. Then he said to the people, “Buddha had such immense compassion on you.”

What is the compassion of Buddha? The compassion of Buddha is this -knowing perfectly well that you will not understand, he tried. That is his compassion. Knowing perfectly well that it is impossible to understand something that Buddha says, he tried his whole life to help you to understand. That is his compassion. He is trying to help you see that which you cannot see. Trying to bring into language and words that which cannot be reduced to words. Trying to do the impossible, that is his compassion.

Lo-shan said to the people, “Do one thing - spread Buddha’s word, his dharma. Whatsoever he has said, go on spreading it.” Maybe somebody may understand sometime. Even if one in thousands understands, that’s enough. Even if one in millions blooms, that is enough. One person flowering fills the whole earth with his fragrance. Yes, a single individual flower of consciousness transforms the whole quality of consciousness on the earth. It raises the consciousness of the whole earth.

And then he told them, “Now get out! Get out of here!” What does he mean by “Get out, get out of here!”? He is telling them: The mind in which you are, get out, get out of the mind. The ego in which you are, get out of the ego. But Zen masters have their own ways of expression. First he threw out half the monks from one gate, then the other half from another gate. Then only laymen remained, and he tells them, “Get out! Get out of here!” Then laughing loudly, the master fell over dead.

What is his laughter? Why is he laughing? There is a Zen parable:

Thus he arrived before a great castle on whose facade were carved the words “I belong to no one and to all. Before entering you were already here. When you leave you will remain.”

He is laughing at the ridiculousness, absurdity - the absurdity of everything and all. Everything is so contradictory. Life exists through death, love exists through hate, compassion exists through anger. And only those who are not can be. And those who are cannot be. It is so absurd, it is so contradictory. He is having his last laugh at this whole situation of so-called life. It is not logical, that’s why he is laughing. It is so illogical. What can you do with such an illogical phenomenon? - you can have a good laugh.

Another master, Tetsugen, shortly before he died called his monks together. It was December first. “I have decided to die on the eighth of this month,” he told them. “That’s the day of Buddha’s enlightenment. If you have any questions left about the teaching, you’d better ask them before then.”

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