Chapter 3: The Abbot of Nansen
Buddha’s teaching flowered in China, it came to perfection. Nansen is a meeting of Buddha and Lao Tzu, the meeting of Buddhism and Taoism, and Zen is the meeting of all that is beautiful in Buddha and all that is beautiful in Lao Tzu. That’s why there is nothing like Zen, because two streams, tremendously powerful, tremendously beautiful, utterly of the unknown, came to a meeting. There has never been such a meeting. Other religions have met but they have met as enemies. They have conflicted, clashed with each other. Something has happened even out of that clash, but it cannot be so beautiful. It has not been a natural growth.
For example, in India it happened that Hindus and Mohammedans met - they clashed. The offshoot was Sufism; Sufis were born - very beautiful people. But it seems as if a child was born out of a rape, not out of love - a beautiful child is possible even out of rape - but not out of love. This meeting of Buddha’s teaching with Taoism is out of love. They simply fell in love; there has been no clash, as if they suited each other perfectly. Something was lacking in Taoism and something was lacking in Buddhism. They simply complemented each other, they became a new being. The two disappeared and something new was born. The new was this man Nansen. Now try to understand this parable.
Nansen, the famous Chinese Zen master, was in the woods one day near the temple, cutting down trees with a huge ax.
You cannot believe, you cannot conceive! You cannot even conceive of Buddha chopping wood or cutting down a tree. He sits under a tree, right, never cuts it. You cannot imagine Buddha doing anything. You have seen his images. He has millions of images in the world, but always sitting silently with closed eyes: images of inactivity, images of meditation, but not images of meditation in action, no. And you cannot find an image of any Zen master just sitting with closed eyes, he is always doing something. That was the thing missing in Buddhism which was supplied by Taoism.
Life should be a balance between inactivity and activity. If you are completely active you miss something, you miss the inner. If you are completely inactive you again miss something, the outer. And the outer has its own beauty; nothing is wrong with it. In the West they tried to be active, more and more active. Activity became the whole pattern of life. They did many things - miracles - but the inner core was completely lost, forgotten. In the East they have been too inactive. When you look outside, everything has gone ugly. To look, to open your eyes in India, is really to pass through a very painful experience.
So I know why Buddha closed his eyes. Why do you always find him with closed eyes sitting under a tree, afraid to open his eyes? - all over, poverty, misery. But it is a vicious circle. If you close your eyes.the misery is not going to change just by closing your eyes. Something has to be done about it.
The East has become inward and has lost all contact with the outward existence. This is an imbalance. Zen is a perfect balance. A Zen master meditates, but then he also goes to the woods to cut wood because winter is approaching. He does many things just like an ordinary man. He is nothing special. Nansen is one of the very few, rare human beings who attained to the highest, like a Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus, and continued cutting wood.