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Chapter 12: Behind Those Reflecting Eyes

Kinzan is saying, “Let the assembly decide” because “Neither you know nor I know. Then let the people decide, because this portrait - this personality that is seen from the outside - can be decided only by others.” Just think for a moment: do you ever feel, from inside, many of the things that are imposed upon you from the outside?

For example, in the East the older man becomes more respectable. He does not have any problem in becoming old; the more elderly and ancient he becomes, the more respect is available to him from society. But in the West, to become old is thought to be like a disease. One avoids it as much as possible, by all kinds of means - plastic surgery. But whatever you do, even those who have gone through plastic surgery will one day enter the grave. It cannot be avoided. You cannot say, “This is not right - I have gone through plastic surgery and still old age is coming.”

And after old age is death. The West worships youth, but youth is fleeting. The East has a better understanding. By giving respect to the old, it is saying, “Just as old age makes you wise, death will make you wiser! Don’t be worried - all these things change, and that which changes from childhood till death is not you.” Within all this change there is something that remains unchanging, and nobody can make a portrait of it.

Fuke was the chief disciple of Banzan, and was the most eccentric of all the Zen monks.
When Banzan was about to die, he asked his monks to bring him his portrait, but he was not satisfied with any of them.
At that time, Fuke had one of them, and Banzan said, “Why don’t you show me it then?”
Fuke turned a somersault and went out.
Banzan said, “This lunatic will pervert the true way from now on.”

You should not think that Banzan is condemning Fuke. These words are very loving. Banzan is in fact saying that the man who was thought to be eccentric has managed what other learned, so-called scholarly people have not been able to do. He simply turned a somersault and went out. He is saying something through his gesture: “At this moment of death, why are you worried about your portrait? What will you do with it? Just turn a somersault and go out!”

Zen has never taken death seriously. Nobody who knows can take death seriously. It is a fiction.

Banzan said, “This lunatic will pervert the true way from now on.”

He is not condemning him. He is simply saying, “This lunatic has proved wiser than the other so-called wise monks, and from now on he will be followed - but following is a perversion.”

Zen wants you to act authentically.

You should not repeat, you should not imitate.

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