Because all things are empty forms, you never bring anything, whether you bring them or not. It is always nothingness – either potential nothingness or actual nothingness, but it is nothingness. So don’t be bothered about it. Whatever your feeling is, there is no need to discuss it; you just put it down, get free of it.
Yen Yang said, “Since not a single thing is brought, put what down?”
It is not that he has not understood; it is not your kind of question that he is asking. He is a man of meditation, and he understands exactly what Chou means when he says, “Put it down.” But he is teasing the master; he wants him to say something which is not right, so then he can catch hold of his neck.
He has raised a question in which anybody could be caught. This is the old playfulness in the tradition of Zen. Since not a single thing is brought, put what down? He is making a logical statement, knowing perfectly well what the master means when he says, “Put it down.” But you cannot defeat a master.
Chou said, “If you can’t put it down, pick it up”
But he remains in his state of pure nothingness. He does not move a single bit. Although the disciple is trying to move him to say something wrong, an enlightened man, an awakened consciousness cannot be tricked into anything. You can try it from every corner – and there are thousands of stories in which disciples have been trying to pull the leg of the master. But nobody has ever succeeded. If somebody succeeds, that means the master is not a master yet, he is a pretender.
So when he asks, “Put what down?” he is making a logical statement, and he is trying to prove that what the master is saying is absurd. But the master cannot be moved from his state of being. He says, “Okay, if you cannot put it down, pick it up.”
The situation remains the same. The same question can be asked again: “If I have not brought anything, how can I pick it up?” But Yen Yang understood that it was enough. You cannot trick the master into making a statement which is not according to his experience of nothingness. There is nothing to pick up and there is nothing to put down, other than the feeling that you are carrying. Either put it down…or, if you cannot put it down, then pick it up. What else can be said?
This absurd statement, which looks absurd to any outsider, suddenly triggers in the disciple who is just on the verge of enlightenment the same light, the same understanding that there is nothing to carry, nothing to put down, nothing to pick up – that you are only a pure awareness in an ocean of nothingness.
Listening to it from the master Chou, it goes directly as an arrow to his being.
At these words, Yen Yang was greatly enlightened.
I would like to give you another instance which is more clear and which will help you to understand this instance.