Chapter 1: The Significance of Zen
Somebody asked the master, Bokuju:
We have to dress and eat every day -
how do we get out of all that?
We dress, we eat.
The questioner said:
I don’t understand.
If you don’t understand,
put on your clothes and eat your food.
What is Zen?
Zen is a very extraordinary growth. Rarely does such a possibility become an actuality because many hazards are involved. Many times before, the possibility had existed - a certain spiritual happening could have grown and become like Zen but it was never realized to its totality. Only once in the whole history of human consciousness has a thing like Zen come into being. It is very rare.
So first I would like you to understand what Zen is, because unless you do that these anecdotes won’t be much help. You need to know the complete background. In that background, in that context, these anecdotes become luminous - suddenly you attain to the meaning and the significance of them, otherwise they are separate units. You can enjoy them; sometimes you can laugh at them; they are very poetic; in themselves they are beautiful, unique pieces of art, but just by looking at these anecdotes you will not be able to penetrate into the significance of what Zen is.
So first try to follow me slowly through the growth of Zen - how it happened. Zen was born in India, grew in China, and blossomed in Japan. The whole situation is rare. Why did it happen that it was born in India, but could not grow here and had to seek a different soil? It became a great tree in China, but could not blossom there, it had to again seek a new climate, a different climate - and in Japan it blossomed like a cherry tree, in thousands of flowers. It is not coincidental, it is not accidental, it has deep inner history. I would like to reveal it to you.
India is an introvert country, Japan is extrovert, and China is just in the middle of these two extremes. India and Japan are absolute opposites. So how come the seed was born in India and blossomed in Japan? They are opposites; they have no similarities; they are contradictory. And why did China come just in the middle, to give soil to it?