Chapter 10: Daring, Rebellious, and Existential
I was expelled from one college because I insisted to the professor of philosophy, “First you answer whether you know yourself or not!”
He tried all kinds of answers; he was a great scholar, an old man, but I was insistent that “All these answers you are giving are borrowed. What is your answer?”
He became so much troubled, he threatened the college authorities: “I will leave, retire. Either I can be in this college or this student. He is making me so troubled, I cannot sleep at night. And he is so strange that even early in the morning, at three o’clock, he knocks on my door and asks, ‘Have you found the answer?’”
Such questions are neither asked nor answered. The principal called me and said, “Why are you torturing that old man?”
I said, “I am torturing nobody. If a man cannot answer the simplest question, then all else that he is saying is nonsense.”
A truth is never borrowed. The moment it is borrowed it becomes untrue. A truth cannot be read in a scripture, a truth has to be only lived in the innermost temple of your being.
Naturally Kyogen could not find the answer.
Sighing to himself, he said, “You cannot fill an empty stomach with paintings of rice cakes.” He then burned all his books and papers, saying, “I will give up the study of Buddhism. I will remain a rice-gruel monk for the rest of my life and avoid torturing my mind.”
Sadly he left Isan, and took on the self-appointed job of grave-keeper. One day, when he was sweeping the ground, a stone struck a bamboo.
[The bamboos around Buddha Hall start creaking madly!]
Do you hear the sound? The bamboos are shouting as loudly as they can.
Kyogen stood speechless, forgetting himself for a while.
And that is the whole secret of Zen. If you can forget yourself even for a split second you have arrived home.
Then, suddenly, bursting into loud laughter, he became enlightened.
Laughter is strangely connected with Zen experience. Either people have laughed before they became enlightened, or people have laughed after they had become enlightened; but laughter seems to be something very essential to the experience. Before or after, but it has to be there.