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Chapter 20: The Second Russian Revolution

You are quoting from Ryokan’s poetry. I don’t think Ryokan is yet enlightened. He was certainly a Zen monk, and a great poet, but he fell short of being a mystic. He reached very close, but even to reach very close is not to be enlightened.

I have also loved Ryokan’s poetry. But beware of poets, because they appear so close to the mystics. Sometimes their words are more juicy than the words of the mystics, because the poet is the artist of words; the mystic is an expert of silence.

Ryokan was a Zen monk; hence something of the mystic echoes in his poetry. But that is because he lived in an atmosphere in communion with the mystics. But he himself was not a mystic.

These are his lines, and you can see immediately what I mean:

Standing alone beneath a solitary pine,
Quickly the time passes.
Overhead the endless sky.
Who can I call to join me on the path?

He is still in need of a companion, and he is still searching. He is still talking of “the path,” and the enlightened man knows there is no path. All paths are wrong, without exception, because every path leads you away from yourself. And to come to yourself you don’t need any path: you have to be just awake and you are there.

It is almost like you are asleep in your room and dreaming that you are far away in London, in New York, in San Francisco. Do you think that if suddenly you are awakened you will find yourself in San Francisco? You were there, but that was only a dream. Awake, suddenly you find you are in your miserable room, and you have not even gone out of the door. You may be angry with the person who has awakened you, but he has brought you back to the reality. And there was no need of booking a ticket, because you had never gone out; you were only dreaming.

You are only dreaming what you are. If you wake up, suddenly you will find all that you used to think your personality, your body, your mind, your knowledge, your feelings, your love - they were all dreams. You are only a witness. But you cannot dream about the witness; that is an impossibility.

The witness remains a witness, never becomes a dream. Your aloneness is your witness, is your being. And it is so full, there is no need of any companion. And what is the need of a path? Where are you going? You have arrived.

Ryokan was a beautiful poet, and perhaps a very disciplined monk, but he was not a mystic and certainly not an enlightened man.

Let this be an opportunity to remind you again: beware of poets. They are like false coins, although they look exactly like authentic coins. But the false is false, and there is no way to make it real. Ryokan has still to wake up and see there is no solitary pine tree standing alone, there is no need of a companion, and there is no path.

One is, and has always been, at home.

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