The old Chinese proverb is: “When the musician becomes perfect, he throws away his instruments. When the archer becomes perfect, he forgets about his bow and his arrows.”
When a meditator comes to his very center, there is certainly a dance, an immense blissfulness overflowing, but there is no thought. Beware of thinking – that is your enemy number one.
Suigan, thinking he had attained something of Zen,
left Jimyo’s monastery, when he was still a young monk,
to travel all over China.
Years later, when Suigan returned to visit the monastery,
his old teacher asked,
“Tell me the summary of Buddhism.”
These kinds of questions are very special to Zen: they don’t say what you hear; they don’t mean what you understand; they are only indications. Asking, “Tell me the summary of Buddhism,” he is not asking like a professor. Anybody can summarize, any scholar can do it. The master is not asking for the summary of Buddhism, he is asking you to show your understanding: “Have you arrived home? Have you got it?”
And he missed again, because this was the time. If he had remained silent, just open and available to the master, he would have instantaneously become the very summary of Buddhism, the very summary of existence. But he answered.
Zen is not a question and answer thing; you cannot answer in words. Only silence can give the proof that you have understood. But he could not remain silent.
“If a cloud does not hang over the mountain,
the moonlight will penetrate the waves of the lake.”
Jimyo looked at his former pupil in anger.
He said, “You are getting old!
Your hair has turned white,
and your teeth are sparse,
yet you still have such an idea of Zen.
How can you escape birth and death?”
“Escaping from birth and death” is a way of saying the entrance into the transcendental – which is never born and never dies.
Tears washed Suigan’s face as he bent his head.
After a few minutes he asked,
“Please tell me the summary of Buddhism.”
The master said: