Chapter 14: Beat the Drum
Dragging a stone, carrying earth,
Use the spiritual power of a thousand-ton bow.
Zokotsu Roshi rolled out three wooden balls;
How could they surpass Kasan’s “Beating the Drum”?
Different masters in different ages have used different devices just to take you out of your mind process, just to silence you, just to make you aware of your inner emptiness. Setcho said, “No other master has been able to surpass Kasan’s beating the drum.”
I will tell you, what is sweet is sweet,
What is bitter is bitter.
He is saying, “Kasan is simply concerned with the ultimate truth of your emptiness. Out of your emptiness all kinds of sounds, thoughts, imagination, dreams.but a good hit on your coconut.”
Yeah, it hits well - many people seem to realize the emptiness!
Even if nobody else becomes enlightened, Nivedano’s drum is going to become enlightened. That is not a small matter.
A few other Zen masters’ statements before I come to Maneesha’s questions:
Kyuho said, “Our late teacher said, ‘You should be completely finished up, emptied away; one nen, one eon; you should be like cold ashes and the dead tree, like the incense burner on the deserted shrine, like the frozen lake, like a piece of glazed silk.’ Tell me, what does this mean?”
The head monk said, “It means the realm of one color” - that is, great enlightenment.
Kyuho said, “You do not understand our teacher’s meaning.”
The head monk ordered someone to fetch a packet of incense and said, “If I cannot pass away while this incense is burning, your words will be proved true.” He threw the incense into the burner. A cloud of white smoke rose, and while it still hung in the air, the monk passed away sitting up straight.
Kyuho, stroking the dead monk’s back, said, “You could pass away sitting up straight, but you could never dream of our late teacher’s meaning.”
This passing away seems to be so miraculous. As the incense will be burned away, the monk is saying, “I will be gone with the smoke.” That is the meaning of inner emptiness: “I can empty out myself any moment” - and he did manage it, sitting straight; as the incense stopped burning he was gone.
But Zen is a very strange way of approaching the truth.