Shunryo Suzuki, one of the first Zen masters to live and teach in the West, was once asked why he never spoke much about satori, enlightenment. The master laughed and answered, “The reason I do not talk about satori is because I have never had it.”
Could you please comment.
Zen in the West is in a very strange context. The master you are talking about, Shunryo Suzuki, must have felt immense difficulty to express himself, because Zen has a language of its own. It has a climate different from any other climate that exists on the earth.
To bring Zen to any country is a difficult task. One has to be ready to be misunderstood. Suzuki’s statement seems to be clear, and anybody who will read it will not have any difficulty to understand it. But whatever he will understand will be wrong.
The master was asked, “Why don’t you speak about satori?” – the Japanese word for enlightenment. And he answered the way a Zen master should answer knowing perfectly well he could not be understood, he is bound to be misunderstood. He said, “The reason I do not talk about satori is because I have never had it.”
The statement is clear; linguistically there is no problem, there is nothing to be understood in it. Suzuki is saying, “I have never talked about it because I have never had it.” Now I will have to give you the whole background, the climate in which the meaning of the same sentence turns into exactly its opposite as you understand it.
Zen has an absolute certainty that no one can have satori or enlightenment; you can have things. You can have money, you can have power, you can have the whole world, but you cannot have enlightenment.
Enlightenment is not a thing; it is not possible to possess it. Those who say they have it, don’t have it – they don’t even understand the abc of it. One becomes enlightened – that’s what Suzuki is saying. There is no distinction between I and enlightenment, so how can I have it? The I disappears completely into enlightenment just like a dewdrop disappearing in the ocean. Can the dewdrop say, “I have the ocean”? The dewdrop is the ocean – there is no question of having it. This is the first thing to be clearly understood.
Suzuki was an enlightened master; that’s why he denied it. If he were not enlightened, but was only a scholar, learned about Zen, he might have felt very embarrassed to deny it. He might rather have lied, and nobody would have been able to detect his lie. He could have said, “I have it, but the experience is inexpressible; it was so simple, that’s why I never talk about it.” But the man really had it. To really have it means you can’t have it; you disappear.
As long as you are, there is no enlightenment.
The moment there is enlightenment, you are not.
You disappear just like darkness disappears when there is light. Darkness cannot possess light; you cannot possess enlightenment.