Chapter 6: To Take Up a Koan
You are in the world, and I want everyone of my sannyasins to be in the world. I don’t want you to be in a monastery, because a monastery takes all your twenty-four hours, destroys all your capabilities for creativity. And most often people become so tired that they leave the monastery and enter another monastery. This is a constant phenomenon in Japan: people who get tired of one monastery move into another monastery. And because they don’t have to work at anything - food is supplied by the monastery, clothes are supplied by the monastery; their only work is to concentrate on the koan - either they become fed up with the monastery and they think something is wrong with the koan because nothing is happening and three years have passed, or they go nuts. Their urgency and totality takes a wrong turn and they go mad.
This happens constantly in Zen monasteries. In fact, every Zen monastery has a special retreat place for monks who go mad. But their method to bring the mad monk back into the world is very simple. Modern psychiatry and psychology should study the method because what they cannot do in ten years time is done within three weeks in the monasteries. And in fact, nothing is done; just in the monastery, in a faraway place in the bamboos, hidden by the side of a river, is a small cottage. The man is left alone there, and is told not to talk to anybody. Anyway, nobody passes by there except the man who brings the food every day. But he is not allowed to talk to the man; neither is the man allowed even to make gestures or to say hello.
Three weeks sitting silently, nobody to talk to, nothing to do.the mind cools down.
What psychoanalysis cannot do in fifteen years, the Zen monastery has been doing for one thousand years for thousands of monks.
Nobody goes to visit for those three weeks; the man is just left alone. At first he talks to himself; then slowly, slowly the heat goes away, he cools down. A beautiful scene: the flowers, the bamboos, and the river; and no other man around. And as he cools down, he is brought back to the monastery.
But in any case, one should not do a method in such a way that it drives you mad. And the reason why people go mad through certain methods is that they are trying to be clever. They keep a certain amount of energy on the side - in the left pocket! - so they are never total. And unless they are total, the mind cannot be put aside. So totality is really the function, the purpose of a koan.
I am not using it, and I will not tell anybody else to use it unless he is part of a monastery where he has no mundane work to do, where he is completely dependent on the society. But when you are dependent on the society, you cannot be rebellious. That’s why Zen masters have achieved buddhahood but their buddhahood is not a rebellion; it is not a revolution.
I want my buddhas to be rebellions. But you can be a rebel only if you don’t depend on the society. If you are independent in your working, in your earning, you can be rebellious against all orthodoxies.
It is very cunning, but perhaps without any intention, that rich people, emperors, all donate to the monasteries. It is very good for them: they are earning spiritual virtue, opening a bank account in heaven. And on the other end, they are keeping those people from ever becoming rebellious. They have crippled them completely; they have forgotten how to do anything. They are not asked to do anything but just sit and meditate on the koan - which is an absurdity.