“In that case,” she insisted, “what is the question?” Again silence followed. How can anybody else tell you what the question is? Certainly she has gone mad. Certainly she is no more in her senses. But the question is such that it is impossible to say what it is. The moment you say it, you betray it. The moment you verbalize it, it is no more the same. It is not the same question that was there in the heart. Once it becomes verbalized, it becomes a head thing. It looks almost trivial, almost superficial. You cannot ask the ultimate question. In asking it, it will not be the ultimate any more.
Only a master could have understood what she was saying. She was a beautiful woman, a beautiful person, of tremendous understanding. And at the last moment of her life, she flowered in this koan. You must have heard her famous statement which has almost become a cliché, a rose is a rose is a rose. Nothing can be said about the rose, except that it is a rose. All that you can say about it will falsify it. It is simply there in its strange beauty, with its unknown fragrance, as a fact. You cannot theorize about it. And whatsoever you theorize will be about something else, will not be about this rose; will be a reflection in the mirror, will not be the true thing.
A rose is a rose is a rose – nothing more can be said. Nothing is being said when you say: A rose is a rose is a rose. If you go to a logician, he will say this is a tautology; you are repeating the same word unnecessarily. You are not saying anything! But something is being said: that nothing can be said.
“In that case,” she insisted, “what is the question?” The silence remained unbroken. Nobody was capable enough to respond. A reply was not needed; she was asking for a response.
You can go on thinking about life and death, and you can go on creating many theories and hypotheses, but the whole of philosophy is just rubbish. Life remains unanswered, death remains unanswered. At that moment, Stein was asking about life and death; about that which is life, about that which is also death – about the ultimate, the substratum, the very ground of your being. She was asking: Who am I? But philosophy has no answers. Philosophy has been trying to answer; centuries of thinking, speculation, but the whole effort is empty.
Omar Khayyam has said: “Myself when young did eagerly frequent doctor and saint, and heard great argument about it and about, but ever more came out by the same door as in I went.”
About it and about…. Much argument, much philosophizing, but about it and about, never exactly to the point, beating around the bush. Much excited argumentation goes on; nothing comes out of it. Seems just gibberish. Nothing can come out of it, because life is not a philosophical question. And any answer that is only philosophical is not going to be the answer. Life is existential. Only an existential answer can satisfy you, not an answer given by somebody else; not an answer fabricated, manufactured by the mind; not an answer borrowed from the scriptures, but an answer that arises in your being – flowers, blooms, brings your total destiny in a manifested state; makes you fully aware. It is going to be a realization; not an answer but a realization, not an answer but a revelation, not an answer but an experience – existential.