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Chapter 10: The Master of Silence

In Zen monasteries they have been laughing and laughing and laughing. Laughter became prayer only in Zen, because Mahakashyapa started it. Twenty-five centuries ago, on a morning just like this, Mahakashyapa started a new trend, absolutely new, unknown to the religious mind before - he laughed. He laughed at the whole foolishness, the whole stupidity. And Buddha didn’t condemn; rather, on the contrary, he called him near, gave him the flower and spoke to the crowd. And when the crowd heard the laughter they must have thought, “This man has gone mad. This man is disrespectful to Buddha, because how can you laugh in front of a Buddha? When a Buddha is sitting silently, how can you laugh? This man is not paying respect.” The mind will say that this is disrespect.

Mind has its own rules, but the heart does not know them; heart has its own rules, but the mind has never heard about them. The heart can laugh and be respectful; the mind cannot laugh, it can only be sad and then be respectful. But what kind of respect is this which cannot laugh? A very new trend entered with Mahakashyapa’s laughter, and down the centuries the laughter has continued. Only Zen masters, Zen disciples, laugh.

All over the world, all religions have become ill because sadness has become so prominent. And temples and churches look like graveyards; they don’t look festive, they don’t give a sense of celebration. If you enter a church what do you see there? Not life, but death - Jesus crucified on the cross completes the whole sadness there. Can you laugh in a church, dance in a church, sing in a church? Yes, singing is there, but that is sad, and people sit with long faces. No wonder nobody wants to go to church - it’s just a social duty to be fulfilled; no wonder nobody is attracted to the church - it is a formality. Religion has become a Sunday thing. For one hour you can tolerate being sad.

Mahakashyapa laughed in front of Buddha, and since then Zen monks, sannyasins, masters, have been doing such things which religious minds - so-called religious minds - cannot even conceive of. If you have seen any Zen book you may have seen Zen masters depicted, painted. No painting is true. If you look at Bodhidharma’s painting or Mahakashyapa’s painting, they are not true to their faces, but just looking at them you will have a feeling of laughter. They are hilarious, they are ridiculous.

Look at Bodhidharma’s painting. He must have been one of the most beautiful men; that he was otherwise is not possible, because whenever a man becomes enlightened a beauty descends, a beauty which comes from the beyond. A blessing comes to his whole being. But look at Bodhidharma’s painting: he looks ferocious and dangerous. He looks so dangerous that you will become scared if he comes to visit you in the night - never again in your life will you be able to sleep. He looks so dangerous, as if he is going to kill you. It was just disciples laughing at the master, creating a ridiculous portrait. It looks like a cartoon.

All Zen masters are depicted in a ridiculous way. Disciples enjoy it. But those portraits carry a quality that Bodhidharma is dangerous, that if you go to him he will kill you, that you cannot escape him, that he will follow you and haunt you, that wherever you go he will be there, that unless he kills you he cannot leave you. That is the thing depicted with all Zen masters, even Buddha.

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