Chapter 1: The Goose Is Out!
The first question:
Is the goose really out?
The goose has never been in, the goose has always been out. It is a Zen koan. First you have to understand the meaning of Zen and the meaning of a koan.
Zen is not a religion, not a dogma, not a creed. Zen is not even a quest, an inquiry; it is non-philosophical. The fundamental of the Zen approach is that all is as it should be, nothing is missing. This very moment everything is perfect. The goal is not somewhere else - it is here, it is now. Tomorrows don’t exist. This very moment is the only reality. Hence, in Zen there is no distinction between methods and goals, means and goals.
All the philosophies of the world and all the religions of the world create duality; howsoever they may go on talking about non-duality, they create a split personality in man. That has been the greatest calamity that has befallen humanity: all the do-gooders have created a schizophrenic man. When you divide reality into means and goals you divide man himself, because for man, man is the closest reality to man. His consciousness becomes split. He lives here but not really; he is always there, somewhere else. He is always searching, always inquiring; never living, never being, always doing; getting richer, getting powerful, getting spiritual, getting holier, saintly - always more and more. And this constant hankering for more creates his tense, anguished state, and meanwhile he is missing all that is made available by existence. He is interested in the far away and God is close by. His eyes are focused on the stars and God is within him. Hence the most fundamental thing to understand about Zen is: the goose has never been in. Let me tell you the story how this koan started:
A great philosophical official, Riko, once asked the strange Zen master, Nansen, to explain to him the old koan of the goose in the bottle.
“If a man puts a gosling into a bottle,” said Riko, “and feeds him until he is full-grown, how can the man get the goose out without killing it or breaking the bottle?”
Nansen gave a great clap with his hands and shouted, “Riko!”
“Yes, Master,” said the official with a start.
“See,” said Nansen, “the goose is out!”