Chapter 9: Zazen: Just Being
An Indian disciple of Eno, Kutta Sanzo,
on passing through a village
found a monk doing zazen in a small hut he had built.
Sanzo asked, “What’s the idea
of sitting here all by yourself?”
The monk answered, “I’m meditating.”
Sanzo said, “What is this ‘he’ who is meditating?
What are you meditating on?”
The monk said, “I don’t know what you’re getting at.”
Sanzo said, “Why don’t you look at yourself,
and quieten yourself?”
The monk still looked blank.
Sanzo then asked him, “What school are you of?”
“Jinshu’s,” said the monk.
Sanzo said, “Even the lowest heretics
in the India I come from
don’t fall as low as that!
Just to sit emptily and aimlessly
- what can it profit you?”
One day, Yakusan was doing zazen.
Sekito asked him, “What are you doing?”
“Not a thing,” replied Yakusan.
“Aren’t you sitting blankly?” said Sekito.
“If I were sitting blankly,
I would be doing something,” retorted Yakusan.
Sekito said, “Tell me,
what is that which you are not doing?”
Yakusan replied, “A thousand sages
could not answer that question.”
The attendant, O, together with Rinzai, entered the hall.
O asked, “Do these monks read sutras?”
“Not they!” replied Rinzai.
“Then they’re learning Zen?” asked attendant O.
“No,” replied Rinzai.
“Then what on earth are they all up to?” asked O.
“They’re busy becoming buddhas,” said Rinzai,
O said, “Gold dust is valuable but in the eye it is injurious.”
Rinzai said, “I thought you were just a mediocre person!”
Maneesha, the anecdote before me needs to be understood against a certain background.
It is very sad that Gautam Buddha was born in this country, but was not understood by this country. His message was so deep, so inward, so existential that the Indian heritage of thousands of years of learning, scholarship, philosophy, theology, religion, all became a barrier. Of course a few people understood Gautam Buddha, but very few.
Just three hundred years after Gautam Buddha died, Alexander the Great came to India and his historians record they could not find a single enlightened Buddhist. Buddhism has been destroyed by the brahmins, the pundits and the scholars, the intellectuals of this country, because Buddha’s message was not intellectual. Thousands of Buddhists left the country, were driven out, killed or burned, but within just three hundred years not even the footprints of the greatest man that has lived in this land were left. Those who escaped alive reached to China, to Tibet, to Korea, Taiwan, Japan, all over Asia.
It is a strange and sad story that India gave birth to one of the greatest men of the world, but the mediocre masses of India could not understand him. The distance was too much: the distance was between mind and no-mind.
Gautam Buddha is a quantum leap. He does not teach you any theology, he simply wants you to be, neither acting, nor not acting, but just being. He has no God to preach to you, no rituals to be followed; he is the first man in the world to make freedom of being the ultimate right of every living creature.