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Chapter 5: The Essence of Zen

He said, “Whether you understand or not does not matter, but you are my master; you have given me the key. I also want to become a watchman.”

The watchman said, “If you want to become a watchman, I can find you a job.”

The Baal Shem Tov said, “You don’t understand, and you need not be worried about it. It is not a question of finding a job. My watchmanship is totally different. I want to watch my thoughts.”

The whole process is simple: watching your body, in action, in inaction; watching your mind, with thoughts, without thoughts; watching your heart, with emotions, moods, without emotions, without moods. And when all these have disappeared through watching, then your watchfulness goes through a radical transformation: it watches itself, it returns to itself.

Just as everything moves in circles in the world - every energy moves in circles, and watchfulness is an energy. If nothing obstructs it, it is bound to come back to itself. This has been expressed in different ways. The old man becomes the child - it is the consciousness coming back to the source. Immense innocence is released.

Sangharakshita used to come to me whenever he was passing my way. He made it a point to stay at least one day with me. He was constantly moving around India teaching Buddhism, trying to convert people, but I said to him, “Buddhism has gone far ahead of Gautam Buddha, and you are still hanging on to him.”

The Zen story is:

A Zen monk is staying in a Buddhist temple. The night is cold - and in Japan the statues are made of wood - so he takes one of Buddha’s statues and creates fire.

The priest was asleep, but he heard the crackling of the fire and saw the light. He came up from his room. He could not believe.Gautam Buddha was burning and that man was sitting by his side enjoying! He said, “You seem to be mad. You have burned one of my beautiful statues of Gautam Buddha. You should be ashamed of yourself. I gave you shelter in the temple and this is the reward? You have burned Gautam Buddha!”

The monk said, “Wait!” And he took a small piece of wood and started searching in the ashes, but the Buddha was completely burned.

The priest asked, “Now what are you looking for?”

He said, “I am looking for the bones.” Actually he said, “I am looking for the flowers” - because in the East the bones of a dead man are called “flowers.”

“I am looking for the flowers.”

The priest said, “You are certainly mad. How can a wooden statue have flowers?”

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