Chapter 9: Symbols of the Tiredness of Man
A monk came to a master for help on working on one of the classic questions in Zen dialectic: “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming from the West?”
The master suggested that before proceeding with the problem the monk should make him a low salaam.
As he was dutifully prostrating himself the master gave him a good swift kick.
The unexpected kick resolved the murk irresolution in which the monk had been foundering on for some time. When he felt the master’s foot he attained immediate enlightenment. Subsequently he said to everyone he met, “Since I received that kick from Ma Tzu, I haven’t been able to stop laughing.”
An ancient parable..
There is a story of a man who went through mountains to find the end of the world. He must have been a great philosopher - philosophers are known to have such crazy ideas. There is no need to go on a great search to find the end of the world, the world is beautiful as it is. There is no need to go in search of the beginning and no need to go in search of the end. The middle is so perfectly beautiful - why not enjoy it?
But the man was a great philosopher. He was not happy here. Philosophers are never happy here. Now is not their time and here is not their space. They live there, they live somewhere else.
He left his family - children, wife, parents - and went on this crazy mad search to find the end of the world. He passed many mountains, many seas. It was a long journey, naturally, very, very long, and many times he thought he had arrived. Whenever he started feeling tired he would think he had arrived. Whenever he was feeling exhausted he would deceive himself. But sooner or later, after a great rest, he would start seeing things again and the idea would start persisting again: the end has not come yet, it is still the middle - because he could see further ahead, the horizon was still there, as far away as before. So he would commence his journey again.
Again and again he found that whenever he thought that he had arrived he deceived himself. Once that he knew he knew the deception, the self-deception, the journey became more arduous - because he would feel sometimes that now he had arrived but he would know deep down that it was again going to be a deception. And so he had to continue.