It is the only meeting of two religions which can be said to be friendly, compassionate, loving. There has been no conflict at all, no argument even, but a sheer understanding. In deep silence they both could see that their paths may have been different, but they have arrived at the same peak. Taoists had no name for it; they have left it unnamed. Buddhists have a name for it, “dhyan.” But it was so new they had to make a new symbol for it, and that symbol was pronounced “ch’an.” It remained the culmination and synthesis of the two greatest and most highly evolved religions – but it remained confined too, to Buddhists and Taoists.
When it was taken to Japan by Japanese seekers, it reached a new height. It became free from Buddhism and Taoism too; it became simply Zen. There was no need for all the Buddhist doctrines to support it; nor was there any need for the Taoist philosophy to support it. It was so complete and entire in itself that in Japan dhyan – in the name of Zen – came to its purest quality. Nowhere else in the world has it happened.
The essence is witnessing. It is completely devoid of any doctrine. It has no teaching. The man of Zen has nothing to teach. He has no philosophy, no religion. He can only explain to you, through different devices, the silence. And Zen has evolved new devices which were not in the Buddhist jhan, nor were they in Chinese ch’an.
Zen has taken a totally new course, a new freshness, a new birth. Even Taoists and Buddhists feel a little strange about Zen. The most orthodox ones laugh at it, that it is absolutely absurd.
I have seen prominent Buddhist monks. One was Bhikkhu Sangharakshita. He was an Englishman. He must have become a Buddhist monk at a very young age; now he is very old. He lives in Kalimpong just on the border of India and China. He has his small commune there and he is very respected. He has written beautiful books on Buddhism, but when I mentioned Zen he laughed.
I said, “Studying your books I knew you would laugh, because you are still confined to the Buddhist doctrine. You cannot conceive that Zen can exist without any philosophical support. There is no need for any philosophical support; it is a very pragmatic and scientific method. You simply witness your body while walking, sitting, eating, listening, speaking – whatever you are doing, just be watchful.”
There is a Hassid story about the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hassidism. In the middle of the night he was troubled by some philosophical problem. He came out of his house. The road was empty and he started walking up and down. Seeing him walking up and down, a rich man’s guard came out of the house and asked the Baal Shem Tov, “What are you doing here in the middle of the night on the empty road?”
The Baal Shem Tov said, “The same question I wanted to ask you. What you are doing here in the middle of the night when the road is empty?”
And the man said, “I am a watchman.”
The Baal Shem Tov hugged him, thanked him, but the watchman asked, “For what?”
He said, “I have found the key I was looking for. I was worried how to get out of this worry. The word watch gave me the key. You are my master.”
The watchman said, “I don’t understand what you are talking about.”