Chapter 7: Fences, Walls and Broken Tiles
Before we go deeper into the anecdote - so many golden treasures in simple words. The way Nanyo replied, “The mind of the buddha - even of the buddha - is nothing but fences, prisons, boundaries, walls and broken tiles.” You are a buddha, but have you ever thought that you are imprisoned in bones, in skin, in flesh, in marrow? This is your house, this is not you. You are the one who is living in this house, behind these fences, walls and broken tiles. It does not matter whether the mind is of a buddha or of someone who is asleep, the nature of the mind is the same.
No other religion has the courage to speak as straightforwardly as Zen. No Christian can say this about Jesus; he will think it is disrespectful. No Hindu can say this about Krishna; he will think it is absolutely irreligious. But Nanyo himself is a buddha and what he is saying is not irreligious, is not disrespectful; he is simply stating the fact. Mind is your bondage. The moment you drop your mind, your buddhahood arises out of the smoke - a high mountain peak, covered with eternal snow, virgin and pure.
But the poor monk could not understand it. That is the difficulty with communication between someone who knows and the one who knows not - misunderstanding upon misunderstanding.
The monk was shocked. Buddha is worshipped and this Nanyo worships him himself, teaches his teachings himself, and is talking in such offensive terms!
The monk asked, “Fences, walls and broken tiles are insentient, aren’t they?”
“That’s so,” replied Nanyo.
“Do they expound Buddhism?”
The monk is still thinking with his mind, with his logic, with his reason. And his question is reasonable. If this is the mind of Buddha, then they must be teaching Buddhism. He is trying to prove Nanyo utterly ignorant of the mind of Buddha. His questions are not just questions, but arguments.
“Do they expound Buddhism?” asked the seeker monk.
“Always, and busily,” replied Nanyo.
As far as teaching is concerned, mind is busy all around the world, teaching this religion, teaching that religion, teaching this philosophy, teaching that theology. Nanyo is saying that Buddhism - or any “ism,” it does not matter - is always taught by the mind. But Buddha himself is silent. Buddha teaches not; only the house goes on resounding with sounds, but the one who lives in the center of the cyclone is absolutely silent.
The monk still goes on:
The monk said, “Why didn’t I hear it, then?”
Again it has to be understood, that that which is beyond mind can neither be said nor can be heard - but it can be understood, it can be realized; it is your very nature. And the master’s function is not to teach you theorizations, hypotheses, but to provoke you; just the way, if somebody tickles you, you start laughing for no reason at all.