Chapter 9: Three Pounds of Flax
The word buddha is from Sanskrit, but now it has been taken over by the Chinese, by the Japanese, for the simple reason that they could not find anything equivalent. The word buddha means a consciousness at its peak. What does it mean - a consciousness at its peak?
Tozan said.You must be expecting some philosophical answer, some theological answer, some rational explanation, but what Tozan said is,
“Three pounds of flax.”
At that moment he was carrying three pounds of flax. In that moment he could not indicate anything else; there was nothing else available other than three pounds of flax. In fact he is saying that the question is wrong and if you ask a wrong question you will get a wrong answer. But he is compassionate and polite. Rather than saying, “You idiot! A question about buddha is not to be asked - it is an experience without any explanation, an experience beyond mind.” Being of a very kind nature, rather than saying that you are asking a wrong question, he simply gives an absolutely absurd answer: “Three pounds of flax.”
In that moment it must have come to the inquirer as a shock and also as an insult - not only to himself but to Gautam Buddha - but he knows that Tozan cannot be insulting or derogatory in any sense toward Gautam Buddha, because for Tozan to insult Gautam Buddha will be to insult himself.
His answer is indicative that it is not possible for language to contain the experience. It is almost like, “Whatever I say will not be much more valuable than three pounds of flax.”
Try to see the point.
I will give you an example, perhaps that may help you..
Adolf Hitler convinced one of the most civilized, cultured, courageous nations that the defeat of Germany in the First World War and all the problems of Germany were because of the Jews. At first people laughed: “This is absurd! Jews have nothing to do with it; on the contrary, they had given more money to the fight than anybody else, and to make them responsible..” But when somebody continuously repeats a thing it becomes a truth. Every lie can become almost true; it just needs to be repeated with dogmatic, authoritative force.
That was the whole strategy of Adolf Hitler. He was not a man of great intelligence, but he made the whole nation convinced that he was right: “If Jews are removed all problems will be solved.”
One day as he was coming from his morning walk he met the chief rabbi of Berlin - a strange coincidence. Adolf Hitler asked the rabbi, “What do you think.what is the cause of Germany’s failure, all its problems?”
The chief rabbi said: “It is very simple: the bicycles. Unless you destroy all the bicycles there is no chance for Germany to attain to its glory.”