Chapter 1: The Whiskers of the Pebble
There is no Buddhism as a philosophy, but there is an experience of Buddha which is available to all. It is not a teaching, it is an experience. You cannot teach a blind man what light is, nor can you teach a deaf man what music is. To know the light you need eyes and to experience music you need the receptivity of a musical ear.
Bokushu said, “I won’t answer.”
Bokushu belongs among the great masters of Zen. Without hesitating a moment he said, “I won’t answer.”
In fact he is answering by making this statement. He is saying, “It is not answerable; you can have it, but you cannot be explained, answered by somebody else.”
“I won’t answer,” also means, “I am no more, who is going to answer?” It also means, “You are not receptive, what is the point of answering?” And fundamentally it is a life experience, not a question-and-answer philosophical discourse.
The monk was surprised, obviously. A great master, known to thousands, worshipped by many, says he won’t answer a simple question.
“Why not?” asked the monk.
“Because,” said Bokushu, “you think and think and then come and ask me.”
He is saying, “Think about your question, think about my not answering, and perhaps you may have a certain insight.” Something may open through thinking on this - that a great master who is supposed to be enlightened is not willing to answer a simple question. There must be something wrong in the question or there may be something in the experience of Buddhism that it cannot be brought into words. Or perhaps the man who experiences himself disappears into nothingness, into silence.
He cannot answer. All answers are wrong. “Just go and think and think and then come and ask me.”
The monk further asked, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the West?”
These are traditional questions in Zen.
Bodhidharma founded Zen in China; he went from India, fourteen hundred years before. In Zen it has been asked by the newcomers again and again, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the West?” And particularly it refers to Bokushu’s saying, “I won’t answer.”