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OSHO Online Library   »   The Books   »   This, This, A Thousand Times This: The Very Essence of Zen
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Chapter 12: Infinite Depth

A monk asked Seppo, “How about when the old valley water is a cold spring?”
Seppo answered, “Stare into it as you may, you can’t see the bottom!”
The monk said, “What about when we drink the water?”
Seppo said, “It doesn’t go in the mouth.”
The monk went to Joshu and said what had been discussed.
Joshu said, “If it won’t go in the mouth, it won’t go through the nostrils.”
The monk then asked, “How about when the old valley water is a cold spring?”
Joshu said, “How disagreeable it is!”
The monk said, “What about drinking it?”
Joshu said, “You will die.”
When Seppo heard of this conversation, he said, “Joshu is one of the ancient buddhas,” and bowed down in respect to Joshu, from a distance. After that he answered no question himself.

Zen is just like this silence. It is here but you cannot hold it in your hands. When the hand is open it is, and when the hand is closed it is not. All depends on your opening or your closing.

Zen is a tremendously great task, eternally insisting on one thing: just be, and don’t ask any question, because there is nobody to answer it.

“There is nobody to answer it” means you are the answer, and you are being disrespectful to yourself when you ask a question. Whom are you asking?

This small anecdote has to be understood as deeply as possible.

A monk asked Seppo, “How about when the old valley water is a cold spring?”
Seppo answered, “Stare into it as you may, you can’t see the bottom!”

To anybody who does not understand the language of Zen it will all look like nonsense, but it is more than any sense can contain. It is certainly beyond the so-called sense, it is certainly not common sense - it is very uncommon.

The monk has asked Seppo, the master, “How about when the old valley water is a cold spring, when the valley water becomes just solid ice?”

Seppo lived near a spring. Seppo answered, “Stare into it.”

Remember the words:

“Stare into it as you may, you can’t see the bottom!”

On the surface, to intellectuals, it may seem irrelevant to the question. It is not. Seppo is saying, “Stare deeply. However deeply you stare into a solid spring, you cannot see its bottom.” The same is your own situation: stare into yourself, you can go deeper and deeper, but you cannot find the bottom. Your depth is infinite.

The monk said, “What about when we drink the water?”

He cannot understand what the master is saying. He is still struggling with his question about drinking water when the spring becomes frozen.

Seppo said, “It does not go in the mouth.”

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