Hakuin is right when he says from the very beginning all beings are buddhas. To recognize this, to welcome this, is maturity. There is nothing to grow into, there is nowhere to go to, there is no goal. To think of goals is to think of toys; spiritual growth, spiritual evolution, spiritual progress, all is just holy cow-dung. You are already there where you want to go so you can never reach if you try to, because you are already there – the very effort is ridiculous, it is absurd. Hence, there is so much misery in the world, because you are trying to reach somewhere where you are already. Naturally you cannot reach. Not reaching you become panicky, not reaching you become more and more frustrated. Not reaching you become more and more ridden with anxiety and anguish. Not reaching you start to create a hell around yourself – that you are a failure, that you are nobody.
The more desperate you are, the more effort you make to reach, and you cannot reach where you already are. To recognize this is sudden enlightenment. Enlightenment is not gradual, it is sudden, it is in a single moment of insight, it is a flash. But people go on working upon themselves. Either they work in the market or they work in the monastery, but they work all the same.
My teaching is: Drop the idea of work. Gurdjieff used to call his system “The Work” and I call my system “The Play.” The very idea of work is dangerous, it will give you more and more ego. It is not accidental that many of Gurdjieff’s followers went mad and died in agony. The reason was that he was trying to put the Eastern realization into Western terminology, and for the West, play is a dirty word. The West has been workaholic for so long; it is intoxicated with work.
The word play seems childish to the Western mind; work seems to be more adultish – I don’t call it mature, it is “adultish.” Gurdjieff was trying to transplant something from the East into the Western mind; naturally he had to use Western concepts, words, language. What turned out was really very fatal; play became work.
If you understand me even for a single moment, that will do – if even for a single moment the glimpse comes, that: “Why am I rushing, why am I hurrying?”
Relax in this moment; let this moment be. Suddenly all starts exploding in you, in that moment you are mature, and that moment can become your very tacit understanding. Then you live as an ordinary man but you live extraordinarily, then you live in the marketplace but you are no more part of it; in a subtle way you have transcended it, and without any effort. Without striving you have transcended it. You can go on playing games, but they are all games, you are no longer serious. It is all a drama – it is good, enjoy it, but don’t get engulfed by it: the moment you are serious you are possessed by the world. Seriousness is the indication that the world has possessed you, non-seriousness is the indication that the world no longer has power over you.
The really enlightened person has a great sense of humor: it is said of Bodhidharma that when he became enlightened he laughed for many months, he would not stop – at the whole ridiculousness of it, that people are already there and trying to reach. In their very striving they go on missing. And whenever anybody used to ask Bodhidharma about enlightenment, either he would hit him or he would laugh. What else can you do? – this man deserves to be hit. When somebody asked Bodhidharma how to become a buddha, he slapped him immediately, and the man said, “What are you doing sir? I have come to become a buddha.” He said, “I am making you one. If a buddha comes and asks me how to become a buddha, what am I supposed to do? I will hit him!”