Chapter 9: The Flame of Your Innermost Being
Some time later Master Ryotan and Tokusan were spending the evening together.
Ryotan said, “It is getting dark. You had better return to your place.”
Tokusan said, “Good night” to the master, and stepped outside. A few moments later, he returned to the master saying, “It is so dark outside!”
The master lit a candle to give to Tokusan, but just as Tokusan held out his hand and was about to get hold of the candle, Ryotan vehemently blew out the flame.
At this moment Tokusan was awakened and made a bow to the master.
There are many important things to be noted as deeply in you as possible. One is that light does not come from outside. Nobody can give it to you. Ryotan was very kind to make it clear by blowing out the candle.
Outside is darkness and inside - where light is - you are not. The only way to have light is to enter into your innermost being. Hence it is called enlightenment.
You have become the candle which nobody can blow out. You have found the fire that is eternal, the very flame of existence.
You are all flames. It is just a question of seeing within yourselves. And the whole Buddha Hall is full of flames. Just a jungle of flames. Otherwise, outside is darkness.
This prompts me to make a marginal note: the West has been searching for the light outside, where it is not. The East has been searching the light inside, where it is. But unfortunately, even the East has fallen into the hands of the West. Its whole educational system, its whole mind is no longer of the East.
Now in the world, there exists only the Western mind: looking outside. It does not matter where you are; it is not a question of geography, it is a question of spirituality. Are you looking in? Then you are at the very source of light. And other than that, no light can help you to dispel the darkness that is surrounding you.
Ryotan, without saying a word, made his statement and it was understood by Tokusan immediately. The blowing out of the flame was enough for Tokusan to understand that you can only have your own light, nobody can hand it over to you. Either you have it or you don’t have it. But nobody can do anything about it - only hints.
This story is also important in order to understand that an ordinary old woman has as much inner light as the greatest master that may have ever lived.
An old woman running a tea house at the foothills defeats the great scholar. Tokusan’s speciality was The Diamond Sutra. The old woman asked exactly what The Diamond Sutra is based upon. The Diamond Sutra says, “There is no mind. Neither past, nor present, nor future.” Mind is only a dream in a sleeping consciousness. Wake up and the mind disappears.
The old woman, an ordinary woman, an anonymous woman, put the scholar to a great task. She said, “You say you are going to light up your mind” -because a snack in Chinese also means lighting up your mind.