Chapter 1: The Tale of the Sands
In Zen the key word is mindfulness. In Sufism the key word is heartfulness. Remember this - it will make it clear where they differ. Zen is against mind, but goes beyond mind through the mind. Sufism is not against the mind, Sufism is completely indifferent to the mind. Sufism is focused on the heart; it simply does not bother about the mind. It believes in heartfulness. Yes, a certain kind of awakening comes to the Sufi too. If we call the Zen-awakening satori mind-wakefulness, then we will have to coin a word for the Sufi awakening: heart-wakefulness. The path of the Sufi is the path of the lover. The path of Zen is the path of the warrior, the samurai. And because of this basic difference in approach.
Both use stories. Zen uses stories and Sufism also uses stories, but their stories have a different flavor, a different tone. The Zen story is absurd - it is a riddle, and a riddle which cannot be solved. You can try, but you will never be able to solve it. That insolubility is built-in; it is intrinsic to the Zen story. It has to be absurd because it is a device to destroy your mind, to shock your mind. It is a sword.to kill your mind. It drives you almost mad, because there seems to be no solution coming and you have to go on meditating on the story. It is a meditation device. Many solutions are given by the mind, but all solutions are rejected by the master. The disciple goes on, day in and day out, with new solutions, and the master goes on shouting at the disciple, “This is nonsense! Go and search again!” Sometimes months, sometimes years pass, and then a moment comes to the disciple when he sees that there is no solution. And remember, if you simply think there is no solution then you have missed the point. You have to come to a realization that there is no solution. In that state of no-solution, no-conclusion, a transcendence happens, a leap, a quantum leap - you have gone beyond the mind through the mind. The Zen story functions like a sword to cut the knot of the mind.
The Sufi story is not a riddle, it is a parable. It is not a shock, it is not a sword; it is persuasion, it is seduction. It is the way of the lover. It is very gentle and soft and feminine. Zen is very masculine, Sufism is feminine. The Zen story drives you mad: through creating a maddening state in the mind it helps you to go beyond it. It drives you crazy! The Sufi story intoxicates you slowly, slowly but inevitably.
The Sufi story has a poetry in it, a rhythm. The Sufi story has to be contemplated, not meditated upon. The Zen story has to be meditated upon. The Sufi story has to be imbibed, sipped like tea, enjoyed in a relaxed mood. The Zen story has to be penetrated with a very, very concentrated mind, in a very tense attitude, in intensity. You have to focus all your energies on the story. You have to forget the whole world; only that small absurd story exists. And you know it cannot be solved, and yet you have to put your whole energy into it. And all the time you know that this is absurd, it is not going to lead you anywhere, but the master says, “Focus! Concentrate! Pay attention! Look into the riddle of the story!”
The Sufi story has to be listened to just like a story. Sufis are great storytellers. They will sip tea or coffee, they will sit together in a cozy place, warm. The story will start, and the master will tell the story. And the story only gives glimpses, hints, but very potential, very penetrating. All that is needed on the part of the disciple is to listen, not attentively but sympathetically, with an open heart, not with any tension. The story has to be enjoyed. It reveals its mysteries when you are enjoying it.