Chapter 1: Beyond Individuality: The Ultimate Center
And why to Mahakashyapa? - because he was the only one who had remained for years utterly silent. This day, when Buddha came for his morning discourse, everybody was puzzled. He had never carried anything in his hands, and today for the first time he was carrying a beautiful lotus flower. They were all waiting with excitement for what he was going to say, but he did not say anything. On the contrary, he simply went on gazing at the lotus flower for one and a half hours.
Everybody was puzzled, disappointed: “What is going on?” And at that moment, Mahakashyapa, after twenty years of silence, laughed so loudly.
At his laughter, Buddha called him close to him and gave him the lotus flower, and told the commune, “All that I could bring into words I have given to you. That which has remained beyond words, I am transferring to Mahakashyapa.” That was the beginning of Zen. Mahakashyapa was the first patriarch of Zen.
Since that day, all these twenty-five centuries, hundreds of enlightened, awakened buddhas in the very thin stream of Zen have been asked again and again a question: Is the dog also a buddha? It can be changed to: Is the donkey also a buddha?
And all the masters in these twenty-five centuries have said, “Yes,” without any hesitation. Every living being has the seed of the buddha. To have the seed of the buddha is expressed by the word bodhisattva. Fundamentally, a buddha may have gone far away, may have become a donkey, may have become a dog. It does not matter. At the very center of his being he is carrying the seed. Someday, sometime, somewhere, the spring will come and the seed will start growing into a plant with foliage, and the seed will become a lotus flower.
So I say that, amongst these three hundred and one donkeys who had made a procession against me to the police commissioner, the three hundred were just phony human beings; only one was a bodhisattva - the donkey.
It was not an insult to be carried by a bodhisattva. I take it with great respect.
But these people are trying to prove me wrong, and they don’t see that there is no connection: carrying my effigy.you can burn it, but why torture the poor bodhisattva, the donkey? Even that will not refute me.
I am going to take the issue of poverty.
All the religions are responsible for human poverty.
Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Reading such statements, Karl Marx said that all these religions are nothing but opium to the people.
Jesus was consoling the poor: Don’t be worried about your poverty, it is a test. Without complaint, patiently, just wait a little while, and you will be the inheritors of the kingdom of God. Just one life’s poverty, and then an eternity of being a king in the kingdom of God. It is a good bargain.
And Jesus also said - just to console the poor so that they don’t revolt against the rich, against the vested interests, against the exploiters and oppressors - he also said, “A camel can pass through the eye of a needle, but a rich man cannot pass through the gates of paradise.”