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Chapter 6: Perfect the Circle, Pure the Sound

You are right, Maneesha: existence is not a circle but a spiral. A circle is static, dead; a spiral goes on growing, goes on becoming bigger. Now the scientists can measure fourteen billion light-years and they say that a tremendous thing is happening that far away. It must affect us too. Galaxies upon galaxies are running in one direction. We cannot see toward what goal they are running, or if there is any goal - or if the running itself is the goal.. But as far as we can see with our instruments, the whole of existence is running fast. Nothing is static; everything is growing bigger and bigger and bigger.

So you are right, I would not have drawn a circle, because I believe in evolution. I believe in no end to evolution, open-ended evolution - evolution for always. I don’t believe in any full point, not even in a comma. But on the other point you are wrong. You say, “I know you will have me hit or pinched if I’ve got it wrong..” There you are wrong.

Wrong or right, Master Niskriya, hit! That’s good.

[Niskriya takes his feather and tickles her nose.]

That’s very fine.

Your second question: “I recall hearing you say recently that dialogue between an enlightened and an unenlightened person is not possible, and between two enlightened people, not necessary. Zen seems to be an existential dialogue - the ultimate form of communication, whether those on either end of the exchange are enlightened or not. Would you comment?”

Your question is again mixed. Half of it is right: Zen is an existential dialogue, but not between the enlightened and the unenlightened - that is an impossibility. One who knows and one who does not know cannot have any kind of communication. It is just like you are fast asleep and somebody else is talking to you. Now, between the asleep and the awakened, what kind of dialogue.?

But between two awakened, two enlightened persons, dialogue - although unnecessary - is possible. Unnecessary, because they have nothing to convey to each other; they both know it. But Zen is a very youthful, joyous approach to reality; they go on playing with each other. Their play is a joy for those who can understand even the playfulness. They may not understand the meaning of it..

Your idea that it happens whether those on either end of the exchange are enlightened or not, is not right. The enlightened and the unenlightened cannot even play - there is no possibility of communication. When both are enlightened, all possibilities of communication open, but there is nothing to communicate; hence the drama of dialogue.

Your third question is: “Some Zen anecdotes are about interchanges between two masters, two enlightened beings. I have heard that this was called doing Dharma Battle. What was the point of those exchanges, or were they just for the joy of the game?”

Maneesha, Dharma Battle in Pali or Dharma Battle in Sanskrit has a certain subtle purpose. If you see two enlightened persons engaged in a playful dialogue one never knows: the seer within you may become suddenly aware of something more that is not available to our ordinary eyes.

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