I remember a Zen monk, Rinzai:
Someone was learning with him, and someone was meditating with him, a disciple. Rinzai said, “Unless you are absolutely void, nothing is attained.”
The disciple was a lover of Buddha, a follower of Buddha, so he was ready to throw everything from his mind, but not Buddha. So he said to Rinzai. “I can throw everything, the whole world, even myself, but how can I throw the Buddha? That is impossible!”
Rinzai is reported to have said, “Buddha could become Buddha because he had no Buddha inside. Because there was no clinging to anything like a Buddha, that’s why Gautam Siddhartha could become a Buddha. You will never be able to become that. Throw – throw your Buddha!”
The disciple endeavored. It was very arduous, very difficult, very painful. Ultimately he succeeded. And one day he came running, happy, very happy, filled with joy at his own attainment. He said, “Now I have attained the void.”
Hearing this, Rinzai became sad and he said, “Now throw this void! Don’t come here with this void within you, because even ‘void’ can be an image.”
It is. When you can use a word, it becomes an image. Even when I say “void,” a certain image is created in your minds. I say “emptiness” and a certain thought is created in your minds. So the word emptiness cannot create emptiness. The word emptiness creates a certain parallel image of emptiness in your minds.
So Rinzai said, “Now go and throw this void. Don’t come near me with this nonsense of void within you.”
The disciple just couldn’t understand. He said, “You yourself have been teaching me that one should attain the void, and now that I have attained it you don’t seem at all pleased.”
Rinzai said, “You have not understood me at all, because when one attains the void he cannot say, ‘This is my attainment.’ He cannot say, ‘Now I have attained the void.’ He becomes the void. Others will know about it, but he cannot say it. Others will feel it, but he cannot assert it – because the moment you assert, it becomes a concept, a word, an image.”
Inwardly also every image has to be discarded. But how can you discard if you have not created? How can you throw something which you have not got? So remember this also, because these are the two fallacies; on the path of the seeker, these are the two barriers. One, you don’t have anything so you think, “Now I have discarded.” But you cannot discard something which you don’t have.