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Chapter 3: Emptiness and the Monk’s Nose

Then came Maulingaputta, another great scholar, and Buddha said the same to him: For one year you sit silently by my side, not raising a single question. For one year you have to let your mind subside and penetrate into the intervals. After one year, exactly one year, if you have some questions, I will answer.

Sariputta was also sitting there. He started laughing.

Maulingaputta asked: “What is the matter? Why are you laughing?”

Sariputta said: “Don’t be befooled by this man. If you have to ask anything, ask immediately, because after one year you will not be able to ask anything. This has happened to me. One year, meditating silently, questions disappeared. One year, meditating silently, the argumentative mind disappeared, and the arguer disappeared. One year, sitting by the side of this man, one becomes empty; and then he laughs, and then he plays tricks, and then he says: “Now you ask. Where are your doctrines and principles and arguments?” And nothing arises inside. So, Maulingaputta, if you have to ask, right now is the moment - otherwise, never.”

Buddha said: “I will fulfill my promise. If you remain one year and if you have any questions, I will answer, whatsoever the questions.” Maulingaputta remained. One year passed. He forgot completely about the year passing and that the day had come back; but Buddha remembered. After one year, on exactly the day, he said to Maulingaputta: “Now you stand, Maulingaputta, and you can ask.”

Maulingaputta stood there silent, with closed eyes, and then he said: “There is nothing to ask, and there is nobody to ask. I have completely disappeared.”

Buddhism is an experience and Zen is the purest of all Buddha’s teachings - the very essence. And the center around which the whole experience moves is emptiness.

How to become empty? That is what meditation is all about: how to become so silent, that you cannot even see yourself - because that too is a disturbance. Feeling that “I am,” is also a disturbance - even that goes. One is completely effaced, utterly effaced. The sheet is clean, it becomes like a summer sky - clouds are no longer there, just the depth, the infinite blueness, ending nowhere, beginning nowhere. This is what Buddha calls the anatta, the innermost center of non-being, of no-self. Buddha says: “You walk, but there is no walker; you eat, but there is no eater; you are born, but there is nobody who is born. You will be ill, and you will become old, but there is nobody who becomes ill and becomes old. And you will die, but there is nobody who becomes ill and becomes old. And you will die, but there is nobody who dies. And this is what eternal life is.not being born, how can you die? Not being there, how can you be ill or healthy?

These things happen, and if you become a deep witness to them, by and by you will know that they happen on their own accord. They are not concerned with you. They are not in any way happening in relation to you. Unrelated, homeless, rootless - this is the utter enlightenment.

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