Chapter 1: The Whiskers of the Pebble
A monk asked Bokushu, “What is the inner meaning of the teachings of Buddhism?”
Bokushu said, “I won’t answer.”
“Why not?” asked the monk.
“Because,” said Bokushu, “you think and think and then come and ask me.”
The monk further asked, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma coming from the West?”
Bokushu said, “Are we not teacher and learner? Why don’t you come nearer?”
The monk went nearer, and then Bokushu said, “When I call a man one from east of Setsu, one from west of Setsu is included. What’s the meaning of that?”
The monk then asked, “What is the essence of the meaning of Sokei?” - (which was where Eno lived).
Bokushu said, “When you meet a swordsman in the street, give him a sword. If he is not a poet, don’t show him your poem.”
Once, Ummon exclaimed, “Buddhism is just terrific! The tongue is so short.” Then he added, “So long.” He then said, “When we have finished cutting with a great ax, we rub our hands together.”
A monk asked Nan-yin, “What is the great meaning of Buddhism?”
Nan-yin replied, “The origin of a myriad diseases.”
The monk said, “Please cure me!”
Nan-yin said, “The world-doctor folds his arms.”
A monk asked Yakusan, “Did the essence of Buddhism exist before Bodhidharma came?”
“It did,” said Yakusan.
“Then why did he come, if it already existed?” asked the monk.
“He came,” said Yakusan, “just because it was here already.”
Maneesha, Zen is so strange as far as intellectual understanding is concerned. It looks almost absurd. It is one of the reasons why it has not grown into a vast tree around the world, but has remained a small stream of only those who could see beyond the mind, who could feel - even though it is illogical, irrational.
Once Picasso was asked, as he was sitting in his garden with a beautiful rosebush - many roses had blossomed on it.. A friend, a guest, asked him, “What is the meaning of the roses?”
Picasso said, “There is no meaning in anything at all, but there is immense significance even in the smallest piece of grass.”
You have to understand these two words: meaning and significance. In the dictionary they have the same meaning, but in existence, in life, in truth, they are from different sources. Meaning is of the mind and significance is of the no-mind. Meaning is utilitarian - the bicycle has a meaning, but a roseflower? - utterly meaningless.
But does the bicycle have any significance? The roseflower has immense significance, a great grandeur; just look at the flower and its beauty and its impossibility. Out of earth comes such a phenomenal, beautiful, fragrant rose for nobody in particular, but it spreads its fragrance to the whole universe. It is for anybody who is receptive.
The concern of philosophy is meaning, and the concern of Zen is significance. The meaning has always to be rational, significance has no such bondage. What meaning does love have? It has immense beauty, it has great joy, it is a blessing - but don’t ask the meaning.
Since the days of Gautam Buddha it has been asked again and again by the Buddhist monks, “What is the meaning of Buddhism?”
Just by their question they have missed. A wrong question cannot provoke a right answer.
Keeping this in your view, meditate on these small anecdotes.