Those who have known – their difficulty is that of communication. You know the taste of salt but you cannot convey it through language. Language has limitations, and the experience of your fundamental nature is of the unlimited. To bring the unlimited to the limitations of language is a tremendously risky task. Even though it is done with absolute accuracy, it is going to fail. Seeing this, the ancient masters have not relied on scriptures, have not even relied on language. They are their own authority; it does not matter whether all the scriptures of the world say something else. They know the taste of truth. Their authority is not derived from their scholarship; they are the authority unto themselves.
It brings a problem, because they cannot use scriptures; they cannot use ordinary means of communication. Hence, they used anything that was in front of them.
…So we see them knocking chairs and raising whisks, hitting the ground and brandishing sticks, beating a drum or rolling balls…
Anything, just to wake you up. Because the question is not of teaching you a philosophical understanding; the question is of existential awakening.
When for the first time the West became aware of Zen masters, they thought, “These people are absolutely crazy! Somebody is asking about truth and you hit him?” Obviously, it looked crazy – and the more so because the person who is being hit, in deep gratitude, bows down and touches your feet! The West was completely puzzled. When Zen books started being translated for the first time, the Western philosophers were hitting their heads. They had never heard that by slapping a man who is asking a question, you are answering him. They had no idea what was implied in this hitting or slapping. One Zen master even threw a man from the second-story window to the ground. The man had come to ask, “What is truth?” Not only did the master give him fractures, he jumped on top of him and asked him, “Do you get it?”
And the poor fellow had to say, “Yes, master.”
This kind of incident was absolutely unknown outside the Zen tradition. But you have to understand it, what is implied. When a Zen master hits, he is saying, “You are the truth, and you are asking about it? Are you kidding? You are the buddha and you are asking what the buddha is?” By hitting you he is simply saying, “Look at yourself, rather than asking like a beggar from one place to another. Just go in and look.” His hitting is a shock; in that shock perhaps your thinking may stop, there is every possibility. You were not expecting a hit; you had come with deep humbleness, touching the feet of the master….
And sometimes it has happened that the person has not even asked the question and the master has hit him, because his very coming and touching the feet means he has some question to ask. It does not matter what question, you deserve a good hit! It is throwing you back to yourself; it is saying in an existential way that you are the answer – don’t seek it anywhere.
Having no other way to communicate, they devised anything that might wake you up, throw you upon yourself. Asking a question means you are putting the responsibility on the master to answer you. But his answer cannot be your answer.