People have grooves in their mind and they move in the same grooves again and again. A mathematician has a certain track. The wife is going to die, the doctors have said that this is going to be the last night, he is keeping vigil – but the mind started moving in its old pattern, of course. He started thinking about a mathematical problem. Just see: the wife will no longer be there, it is the last night, but the mind is creating a screen of mathematics. He has completely forgotten about the wife; he has moved, he has gone far away on a journey.
As time passed he found himself beginning to ponder a deep problem in mathematics. He drew pen and paper to himself and began to draw diagrams. A servant approached and said deferentially, “Herr Gauss, your wife is dying.”
And Gauss, never looking up said, “Yes, yes. But tell her to wait till I’m through.”
Even the great minds are as unconscious as you are. As far as consciousness is concerned, great, small and mediocre, all sail in the same boat. Even the greatest mind lives under chloroform.
Come out of it, make yourself more alert, bring yourself together. Let one thing become a centering – a constant centering in you – and that is alertness, awareness. Do whatsoever you do, but do it consciously. And by and by consciousness accumulates and it becomes a reservoir of energy.
Now, the Zen story:
Yagyu Tajima no Kami Munenori was a teacher of swordsmanship to the shogun.
In Zen, and only in Zen, something of great import has happened: that is, they don’t make any distinction between ordinary life and religious life, rather, they have bridged them both. And they have used very ordinary skills as upaya, as methods for meditation. That is something of tremendous import. Because if you don’t use ordinary life as a method for meditation, your meditation is bound to become something of an escape.
In India it has happened… And India has suffered badly. The misery that you see all around, the poverty, the horrible ugliness of it, is because India has always thought religious life to be separate from ordinary life. So people who became interested in God renounced the world. People who became interested in God closed their eyes, sat in the caves in the Himalayas, and tried to forget that the world existed. They tried to create the idea that the world is simply an illusion, illusory: a maya, a dream. Of course life suffered much because of it. All the greatest minds of this country became escapist and the country was left to the mediocrities. No science could evolve, no technology could evolve.
But in Japan, Zen has done something very beautiful. That’s why Japan is the only country where East and West are meeting: Eastern meditation and Western reason are in a deep synthesis in Japan. Zen has created the whole situation there. In India you could not conceive that swordsmanship could become an upaya, a method for meditation, but in Japan they have done it. And I see that they have brought something very new to religious consciousness.